Message lower bounds via efficient network synchronization

Gopal Pandurangan, David Peleg, Michele Scquizzato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We present a uniform approach to derive message-time tradeoffs and message lower bounds for synchronous distributed computations using results from communication complexity theory. Since the models used in the classical theory of communication complexity are inherently asynchronous, lower bounds do not directly apply in a synchronous setting. To address this issue, we show a general result called Synchronous Simulation Theorem (SST) which allows to obtain message lower bounds for synchronous distributed computations by leveraging lower bounds on communication complexity. The SST is a by-product of a new efficient synchronizer for complete networks, called σ, which has simulation overheads that are only logarithmic in the number of synchronous rounds with respect to both time and message complexity, even in networks with limited bandwidth. Synchronizer σ is particularly efficient in simulating synchronous algorithms which employ silence, a situation that occurs when in some round no processor sends any message. In particular, a curious property of this synchronizer, which sets it apart from its predecessors, is that it is time-compressing, and hence in some cases it may result in a simulation that is faster than the original execution. While the SST gives near-optimal message lower bounds up to large values of the number of allowed synchronous rounds r (usually polynomial in the size of the input), it fails to provide meaningful bounds when the synchronous algorithm to be simulated may comprise a very large number of rounds. To complement the bounds provided by the SST, we then derive message lower bounds for the synchronous message-passing model that are unconditional, that is, independent of r, by establishing novel lower bounds for multi-party synchronous communication complexity. We apply our approach to show (almost) tight message-time tradeoffs and message lower bounds for several fundamental problems in the synchronous message-passing model of distributed computation. These include sorting, matrix multiplication, and several graph problems. All these lower bounds hold for any distributed algorithms, including randomized Monte Carlo algorithms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-95
Number of pages14
JournalTheoretical Computer Science
StatePublished - 2 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


Supported, in part, by National Science Foundation (NSF) grants CCF-1527867, CCF-1540512, IIS-1633720, CCF-BSF-1717075, and by US–Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) grant 2016419.Supported, in part, by a BSF–NSF grant (2016732).

FundersFunder number
National Science FoundationCCF-1527867, 1717075, CCF-1540512, CCF-BSF-1717075, IIS-1633720
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation2016419, 2016732


    • Communication complexity
    • Distributed algorithms
    • Lower bounds
    • Synchronizers
    • Synchronous message-passing


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