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Examination of optimizing information flow in networks

By Deepak Aralumallige, Richard Braun, Aaron Churchill, Garry Halliwell, Michael Levinson, Qingxia Li, Colin Please, Ivonne Rivas, Yi Wang, Romann Weber and Tom Witelski


The central role of the Internet and the World-Wide-Web in global communications has refocused much attention on problems involving optimizing information flow through networks. The most basic formulation of the question is called the "max flow" optimization problem: given a set of channels with prescribed capacities that connect a set of nodes in a network, how should the materials or information be distributed among the various routes to maximize the total flow rate from the source to the destination. Theory in linear programming has been well developed to solve the classic max flow problem. Modern contexts have demanded the examination of more complicated variations of the max flow problem to take new factors or constraints into consideration; these changes lead to more difficult problems where linear programming is insufficient. \ud \ud In the workshop we examined models for information flow on networks that considered trade-offs between the overall network utility (or flow rate) and path diversity to ensure balanced usage of all parts of the network (and to ensure stability and robustness against local disruptions in parts of the network).\ud While the linear programming solution of the basic max flow problem cannot handle the current problem, the approaches primal/dual formulation for describing the constrained optimization problem can be applied to the current generation of problems, called network utility maximization (NUM) problems. In particular, primal/dual formulations have been used extensively in studies of such networks.\ud A key feature of the traffic-routing model we are considering is its formulation as an economic system, governed by principles of supply and demand. Considering channel capacities as a commodity of limited supply, we might suspect that a system that regulates traffic via a pricing scheme would assign prices to channels in a manner inversely proportional to their respective capacities.\ud Once an appropriate network optimization problem has been formulated, it remains to solve the optimization problem; this will need to be done numerically, but the process can greatly benefit from simplifications and reductions that follow from analysis of the problem. Ideally the form of the numerical solution scheme can give insight on the design of a distributed algorithm for a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) that can be directly implemented on the network.\ud \ud At the workshop we considered the optimization problems for two small prototype network topologies: the two-link network and the diamond network. These examples are small enough to be tractable during the workshop, but retain some of the key features relevant to larger networks (competing routes with different capacities from the source to the destination, and routes with overlapping channels, respectively). We have studied a gradient descent method for solving obtaining the optimal solution via the dual problem. The numerical method was implemented in MATLAB and further analysis of the dual problem and properties of the gradient method were carried out. Another thrust of the group's work was in direct simulations of information flow in these small networks via Monte Carlo simulations as a means of directly testing the efficiencies of various allocation strategies

Topics: Transport and Automotive, Information and communication technology
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:generic.eprints.org:271/core70

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