Fast Distributed algorithms for computing separable functions

D. Mosk-aoyama and D. Shah
IEEE Transaction on Information Theory, Volume 54, No. 7, pp. 2997-3007, July 2008

The problem of computing functions of values at the nodes in a network in a fully distributed manner, where nodes do not have unique identities and make decisions based only on local information, has applications in sensor, peer-to-peer, and ad hoc networks. The task of computing separable functions, which can be written as linear combinations of functions of individual variables, is studied in this context. 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. The running time of the algorithm is shown to depend on the running time of a minimum computation algorithm used as a subroutine. Using a randomized gossip mechanism for minimum computation as the subroutine yields a complete fully distributed algorithm for computing separable functions. For a class of graphs with small spectral gap, such as grid graphs, the time used by the algorithm to compute averages is of a smaller order than the time required by a known iterative averaging scheme.