Improved bounds on the max-flow min-cut ratio for multicommodity flows


In this paper we consider the worst case ratio between the capacity of min-cuts and the value of max-flow for multicommodity flow problems. We improve the best known bounds for the min-cut max-flow ratio for multicommodity flows in undirected graphs, by replacing theO(logD) in the bound byO(logk), whereD denotes the sum of all demands, andk demotes the number of commodities. In essence we prove that up to constant factors the worst min-cut max-flow ratios appear in problems where demands are integral and polynomial in the number of commodities.

Klein, Rao, Agrawal, and Ravi have previously proved that if the demands and the capacities are integral, then the min-cut max-flow ratio in general undirected graphs is bounded byO(logClogD), whereC denotes the sum of all the capacities. Tragoudas has improved this bound toO(lognlogD), wheren is the number of nodes in the network. Garg, Vazirani and Yannakakis further improved this toO(logklogD). Klein, Plotkin and Rao have proved that for planar networks, the ratio isO(logD).

Our result improves the bound for general networks toO(log2 k) and the bound for planar networks toO(logk). In both cases our result implies the first non-trivial bound that is independent of the magnitude of the numbers involved. The method presented in this paper can be used to give polynomial time approximation algorithms to the minimum cuts in the network up to the above factors.

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Preliminary version appeared in Proceedings of the 25th Annual ACM Symposium on the Theory of Computing, 1993, 691-697.

Research supported by U.S. Army Research Office Grant DAAL-03-91-G-0102, and by a grant from Mitsubishi Electric Laboratories.

Research supported in part by a Packard Fellowship, an NSF PYI award, a Sloan Fellowship, and by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Office of Naval Research, through NSF grant DMS-8920550.

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Plotkin, S., Tardos, É. Improved bounds on the max-flow min-cut ratio for multicommodity flows. Combinatorica 15, 425–434 (1995).

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Mathematics Subject Classification (1991)

  • 68 Q 25
  • 68 R 10