How to Distribute Computation in Networks

Derya Malak, Alejandro Cohen, Muriel Medard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


In network function computation is as a means to reduce the required communication flow in terms of number of bits transmitted per source symbol. However, the rate region for the function computation problem in general topologies is an open problem, and has only been considered under certain restrictive assumptions (e.g. tree networks, linear functions, etc.). In this paper, we propose a new perspective for distributing computation, and formulate a flow-based delay cost minimization problem that jointly captures the costs of communications and computation. We introduce the notion of entropic surjectivity as a measure to determine how sparse the function is and to understand the limits of computation. Exploiting Little's law for stationary systems, we provide a connection between this new notion and the computation processing factor that reflects the proportion of flow that requires communications. This connection gives us an understanding of how much a node (in isolation) should compute to communicate the desired function within the network without putting any assumptions on the topology. Our analysis characterizes the functions only via their entropic surjectivity, and provides insight into how to distribute computation. We numerically test our technique for search, MapReduce, and classification tasks, and infer for each task how sensitive the processing factor to the entropic surjectivity is.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationINFOCOM 2020 - IEEE Conference on Computer Communications
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781728164120
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes
Event38th IEEE Conference on Computer Communications, INFOCOM 2020 - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 6 Jul 20209 Jul 2020

Publication series

NameProceedings - IEEE INFOCOM


Conference38th IEEE Conference on Computer Communications, INFOCOM 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Computer Science
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'How to Distribute Computation in Networks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this