, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 209–233 | Cite as

Simple On-Line Algorithms for the Maximum Disjoint Paths Problem

  • Petr Kolman
  • Christian Scheideler


In this paper we study the classical problem of finding disjoint paths in graphs. This problem has been studied by a number of authors both for specific graphs and general classes of graphs. Whereas for specific graphs many (almost) matching upper and lower bounds are known for the competitiveness of on-line algorithms, not much is known about how well on-line algorithms can perform in the general setting. The best results obtained so far use the expansion of a network to measure the algorithm’s performance. We use a different parameter called the routing number that, as we will show, allows more precise results than the expansion. It enables us to prove tight upper and lower bounds for deterministic on-line algorithms. The upper bound is obtained by surprisingly simple greedy-like algorithms. Interestingly, our upper bound on the competitive ratio is even better than the best previous approximation ratio for off-line algorithms. Furthermore, we introduce a refined variant of the routing number and show that this variant allows us, for some classes of graphs, to construct on-line algorithms with a competitive ratio significantly below the best possible upper bound that could be obtained using the routing number or the expansion of a network only. We also show that our on-line algorithms can be transformed into efficient algorithms for the more general unsplittable flow problem.

Disjoint paths problem Approximation Greedy algorithms Randomized algorithms Unsplittable flow 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Theoretical Computer Science, Charles University, Malostranskénám. 25, 118 00 PragueCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Computer Science, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218USA

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