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Publication# A (2+epsilon)-Approximation Algorithm for Preemptive Weighted Flow Time on a Single Machine

Résumé

Weighted flow time is a fundamental and very well-studied objective function in scheduling. In this paper, we study the setting of a single machine with preemptions. The input consists of a set of jobs, characterized by their processing times, release times, and weights and we want to compute a (possibly preemptive) schedule for them. The objective is to minimize the sum of the weighted flow times of the jobs, where the flow time of a job is the time between its release date and its completion time. It had been a long-standing open problem to find a polynomial time O(1)-approximation algorithm for this setting. In a recent break-through result, Batra, Garg, and Kumar (FOCS 2018) found such an algorithm if the input data are polynomially bounded integers, and Feige, Kulkarni, and Li (SODA 2019) presented a black-box reduction to this setting. The resulting approximation ratio is a (not explicitly stated) constant which is at least 10000. In this paper we improve this ratio to 2 + epsilon. The algorithm by Batra, Garg, and Kumar (FOCS 2018) reduces the problem to DEMAND MULTICUT ON TREES and solves the resulting instances via LP-rounding and a dynamic program. Instead, we first reduce the problem to a (different) geometric problem while losing only a factor 1 + epsilon, and then solve its resulting instances up to a factor of 2 + epsilon by a dynamic program. In particular, our reduction ensures certain structural properties, thanks to which we do not need LP-rounding methods. We believe that our result makes substantial progress towards finding a PTAS for weighted flow time on a single machine.

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Many of the currently best-known approximation algorithms for NP-hard optimization problems are based on Linear Programming (LP) and Semi-definite Programming (SDP) relaxations. Given its power, this class of algorithms seems to contain the most favourable candidates for outperforming the current state-of-the-art approximation guarantees for NP-hard problems, for which there still exists a gap between the inapproximability results and the approximation guarantees that we know how to achieve in polynomial time. In this thesis, we address both the power and the limitations of these relaxations, as well as the connection between the shortcomings of these relaxations and the inapproximability of the underlying problem. In the first part, we study the limitations of LP relaxations of well-known graph problems such as the Vertex Cover problem and the Independent Set problem. We prove that any small LP relaxation for the aforementioned problems, cannot have an integrality gap strictly better than $2$ and $\omega(1)$, respectively. Furthermore, our lower bound for the Independent Set problem also holds for any SDP relaxation. Prior to our work, it was only known that such LP relaxations cannot have an integrality gap better than $1.5$ for the Vertex Cover Problem, and better than $2$ for the Independent Set problem. In the second part, we study the so-called knapsack cover inequalities that are used in the current best relaxations for numerous combinatorial optimization problems of covering type. In spite of their widespread use, these inequalities yield LP relaxations of exponential size, over which it is not known how to optimize exactly in polynomial time. We address this issue and obtain LP relaxations of quasi-polynomial size that are at least as strong as that given by the knapsack cover inequalities. In the last part, we show a close connection between structural hardness for k-partite graphs and tight inapproximability results for scheduling problems with precedence constraints. This connection is inspired by a family of integrality gap instances of a certain LP relaxation. Assuming the hardness of an optimization problem on k-partite graphs, we obtain a hardness of $2-\varepsilon$ for the problem of minimizing the makespan for scheduling with preemption on identical parallel machines, and a super constant inapproximability for the problem of scheduling on related parallel machines. Prior to this result, it was only known that the first problem does not admit a PTAS, and the second problem is NP-hard to approximate within a factor strictly better than 2, assuming the Unique Games Conjecture.

The central task in many interactive machine learning systems can be formalized as the sequential optimization of a black-box function. Bayesian optimization (BO) is a powerful model-based framework for \emph{adaptive} experimentation, where the primary goal is the optimization of the black-box function via sequentially chosen decisions. In many real-world tasks, it is essential for the decisions to be \emph{robust} against, e.g., adversarial failures and perturbations, dynamic and time-varying phenomena, a mismatch between simulations and reality, etc. Under such requirements, the standard methods and BO algorithms become inadequate. In this dissertation, we consider four research directions with the goal of enhancing robust and adaptive decision making in BO and associated problems.
First, we study the related problem of level-set estimation (LSE) with Gaussian Processes (GPs). While in BO the goal is to find a maximizer of the unknown function, in LSE one seeks to find all "sufficiently good" solutions. We propose an efficient confidence-bound based algorithm that treats BO and LSE in a unified fashion. It is effective in settings that are non-trivial to incorporate into existing algorithms, including cases with pointwise costs, heteroscedastic noise, and multi-fidelity setting. Our main result is a general regret guarantee that covers these aspects.
Next, we consider GP optimization with robustness requirement: An adversary may perturb the returned design, and so we seek to find a robust maximizer in the case this occurs. This requirement is motivated by, e.g., settings where the functions during optimization and implementation stages are different. We propose a novel robust confidence-bound based algorithm. The rigorous regret guarantees for this algorithm are established and complemented with an algorithm-independent lower bound. We experimentally demonstrate that our robust approach consistently succeeds in finding a robust maximizer while standard BO methods fail.
We then investigate the problem of GP optimization in which the reward function varies with time. The setting is motivated by many practical applications in which the function to be optimized is not static. We model the unknown reward function via a GP whose evolution obeys a simple Markov model. Two confidence-bound based algorithms with the ability to "forget" about old data are proposed. We obtain regret bounds for these algorithms that jointly depend on the time horizon and the rate at which the function varies.
Finally, we consider the maximization of a set function subject to a cardinality constraint $k$ in the case a number of items $\tau$ from the returned set may be removed. One notable application is in batch BO where we need to select experiments to run, but some of them can fail. Our focus is on the worst-case adversarial setting, and we consider both \emph{submodular} (i.e., satisfies a natural notion of diminishing returns) and \emph{non-submodular} objectives. We propose robust algorithms that achieve constant-factor approximation guarantees. In the submodular case, the result on the maximum number of allowed removals is improved to $\tau = o(k)$ in comparison to the previously known $\tau=o(\sqrt{k})$. In the non-submodular case, we obtain new guarantees in the support selection and batch BO tasks. We empirically demonstrate the robust performance of our algorithms in these, as well as, in data summarization and influence maximization tasks.

Coding techniques have been well studied and used for improving communication quality by combating noise and mitigating interference.
Recently, it has been shown that the same coding techniques can also be exploited to further improve communication performance and provide specific communication features
even when the communication channel is ideal.
In this thesis, we study two problems where coding techniques are used for improving communications in distributed systems and protecting the privacy of the client from untrusted servers, respectively.\
The first part of this thesis studies the cooperative data exchange problem for fully connected networks.
While many previous studies have shown that the problem can be solved by algorithms based on submodular function minimization, we tackle this problem
via a concept we refer to as "conditioning basis", which is closely linked to linear coding schemes with particular additional properties.
We show that such special linear coding schemes are optimal for the cooperative data exchange problem.
Hence, by searching the existence of such a conditioning basis and special linear coding schemes, we can solve this problem with lower complexity.
We propose a deterministic algorithm for this problem and briefly show how to construct the optimal linear coding schemes starting from a Vandermonde matrix.
Moreover, we show that our new method can be used to solve two generalized problems, which are cooperative data exchange with weighted cost and successive local omniscience problems.\
The second part of this thesis investigates the problem of private information retrieval with side information. Specifically, three different extensions are studied: multi-message, multi-server, and multi-user, respectively.
For each problem, we provide a proof of the converse for the download rate as well as propose efficient approaches to construct optimal coding schemes.
For multi-message and multi-server cases, we give closed-form expressions for the download rates and introduce two useful tools, {\it conditioning answer string} and {\it virtual private information}, to analyze the problem.
For multi-user cases, we show that the optimal download rate can be obtained by solving an optimization problem over all partitions of the total number of messages and propose a novel algorithm based on dynamic programming to solve the optimization problem.\