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Vision Paper: Towards an Understanding of the Limits of Map-Reduce Computation

Foto Afrati
Anish Das Sarma
Semih Salihoglu
Jeffrey Ullman
CloudFutures Workshop (2012)


A significant amount of recent research work has addressed the problem of solving various data management problems in the cloud. The major algorithmic challenges in map-reduce computations involve balancing a multitude of factors such as the number of machines available for mappers/reducers, their memory requirements, and communication cost (total amount of data sent from mappers to reducers). Most past work provides custom solutions to specific problems, e.g., performing fuzzy joins in map-reduce, clustering, graph analyses, and so on. While some problems are amenable to very efficient map-reduce algorithms, some other problems do not lend themselves to a natural distribution, and have provable lower bounds. Clearly, the ease of "map-reducability" is closely related to whether the problem can be partitioned into independent pieces, which are distributed across mappers/reducers. What makes a problem distributable? Can we characterize general properties of problems that determine how easy or hard it is to find efficient map-reduce algorithms? This is a vision paper that attempts to answer the questions described above.