Efficient Algorithms with Asymmetric Read and Write Costs

24th European Symposium on Algorithms (ESA’16). August, 2016.

Guy E Blelloch, Jeremy T Fineman*, Phillip B Gibbons, Yan Gu, Julian Shun^

Carnegie Mellon University
* Georgetown University
^ University of California, Berkeley


In several emerging technologies for computer memory (main memory), the cost of reading is significantly cheaper than the cost of writing. Such asymmetry in memory costs poses a fundamentally different model from the RAM for algorithm design. In this paper we study lower and upper bounds for various problems under such asymmetric read and write costs. We consider both the case in which all but O(1) memory has asymmetric cost, and the case of a small cache of symmetric memory. We model both cases using the (M,ω)-ARAM, in which there is a small (symmetric) memory of sizeM and a large unbounded (asymmetric) memory, both random access, and where reading from the large memory has unit cost, but writing has cost ω≫1.

For FFT and sorting networks we show a lower bound cost of Ω(ωn logωM n), which indicates that it is not possible to achieve asymptotic improvements with cheaper reads when ω is bounded by a polynomial in M. Moreover, there is an asymptotic gap (of min(ω, log n)/log(ωM)) between the cost of sorting networks and comparison sorting in the model. This contrasts with the RAM, and most other models, in which the asymptotic costs are the same. We also show a lower bound for computations on an n × n diamond DAG of Ω(ωn2/M) cost, which indicates no asymptotic improvement is achievable with fast reads. However, we show that for the minimum edit distance problem (and related problems), which would seem to be a diamond DAG, we can beat this lower bound with an algorithm with only
On2/(M min(ω1/3,M1/2))) cost. To achieve this we make use of a “path sketch” technique that is forbidden in a strict DAG computation. Finally, we show several interesting upper bounds for shortest path problems, minimum spanning trees, and other problems. A common theme in many of the upper bounds is that they require redundant computation and a tradeoff between reads and writes.





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