On the Distributed Complexity of Large-Scale Graph Computations

Motivated by the increasing need to understand the distributed algorithmic foundations of large-scale graph computations, we study some fundamental graph problems in a message-passing model for distributed computing where k ≥ 2 machines jointly perform computations on graphs with n nodes (typically, n >> k). The input graph is assumed to be initially randomly partitioned among the k machines, a common implementation in many real-world systems. Communication is point-to-point, and the goal is to minimize the number of communication rounds of the computation.

Our main contribution is the General Lower Bound Theorem, a theorem that can be used to show non-trivial lower bounds on the round complexity of distributed large-scale data computations. This result is established via an information-theoretic approach that relates the round complexity to the minimal amount of information required by machines to solve the problem. Our approach is generic, and this theorem can be used in a “cookbook” fashion to show distributed lower bounds for several problems, including non-graph problems. We present two applications by showing (almost) tight lower bounds on the round complexity of two fundamental graph problems, namely, PageRank computation and triangle enumeration. These applications show that our approach can yield lower bounds for problems where the application of communication complexity techniques seems not obvious or gives weak bounds, including and especially under a stochastic partition of the input.