Computing separable functions via gossip

Mosk-Aoyama, Damon and Shah, Devavrat
In Proceedings of the twenty-fifth annual ACM symposium on Principles of distributed computing, 2006

Motivated by applications to sensor, peer-to-peer, and ad-hoc networks, we study the problem of computing functions of values at the nodes in a network in a totally distributed manner. In particular, we consider separable functions, which can be written as linear combinations of functions of individual variables. Known iterative algorithms for averaging can be used to compute the normalized values of such functions, but these algorithms do not extend in general to the computation of the actual values of separable functions.The main contribution of this paper is the design of a distributed randomized algorithm for computing separable functions based on properties of exponential random variables. We bound the running time of our algorithm in terms of the running time of an information spreading algorithm used as a subroutine by the algorithm. Since we are interested in totally distributed algorithms, we consider a randomized gossip mechanism for information spreading as the subroutine. Combining these algorithms yields a complete and simple distributed algorithm for computing separable functions.The second contribution of this paper is an analysis of the information spreading time of the gossip algorithm. This analysis yields an upper bound on the information spreading time, and therefore a corresponding upper bound on the running time of the algorithm for computing separable functions, in terms of the conductance of an appropriate stochastic matrix. These bounds imply that, for a class of graphs with small spectral gap (such as grid graphs), the time used by our algorithm to compute averages is of a smaller order than the time required for the computation of averages by a known iterative gossip scheme [5].