On the distributed complexity of large-scale graph computations

Gopal Pandurangan, Peter Robinson, Michele Scquizzato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


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. We then present distributed algorithms for PageRank and triangle enumeration with a round complexity that (almost) matches the respective lower bounds; these algorithms exhibit a round complexity that scales superlinearly in k, improving significantly over previous results [Klauck et al., SODA 2015]. Specifically, we show the following results: • PageRank: We show a lower bound of Ω (n/k2 ) rounds and present a distributed algorithm that computes an approximation of the PageRank of all the nodes of a graph in Õ (n/k2 ) rounds. • Triangle enumeration: We show that there exist graphs with m edges where any distributed algorithm requires Ω (m/k5/3 ) rounds. This result also implies the first non-trivial lower bound of Ω (n1/3 ) rounds for the congested clique model, which is tight up to logarithmic factors. We then present a distributed algorithm that enumerates all the triangles of a graph in Õ (m/k5/3 + n/k4/3 ) rounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalACM Transactions on Parallel Computing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Distributed graph algorithms
  • Lower bounds
  • PageRank
  • Triangle enumeration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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