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How bad is selfish routing?

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2 Author(s)
Roughgarden, T. ; Dept. of Comput. Sci., Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY, USA ; Tardos, E.

We consider the problem of routing traffic to optimize the performance of a congested network. We are given a network, a rate of traffic between each pair of nodes, and a latency function for each edge specifying the time needed to traverse the edge given its congestion; the objective is to route traffic such that the sum of all travel times-the total latency-is minimized. In many settings, including the Internet and other large-scale communication networks, it may be expensive or impossible to regulate network traffic so as to implement an optimal assignment of routes. In the absence of regulation by some central authority, we assume that each network user routes its traffic on the minimum-latency path available to it, given the network congestion caused by the other users. In general such a “selfishly motivated” assignment of traffic to paths will not minimize the total latency; hence, this lack of regulation carries the cost of decreased network performance. We quantify the degradation in network performance due to unregulated traffic. We prove that if the latency of each edge is a linear function of its congestion, then the total latency of the routes chosen by selfish network users is at most 4/3 times the minimum possible total latency (subject to the condition that all traffic must be routed). We also consider the more general setting in which edge latency functions are assumed only to be continuous and non-decreasing in the edge congestion

Published in:

Foundations of Computer Science, 2000. Proceedings. 41st Annual Symposium on

Date of Conference:

2000