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Thresholded Covering Algorithms for Robust and Max-Min Optimization

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journal contribution
posted on 01.07.2008, 00:00 by Anupam Gupta, Viswanath Nagarajan, Ramamoorthi Ravi
The general problem of robust optimization is this: one of several possible scenarios will appear tomorrow, but things are more expensive tomorrow than they are today. What should you anticipatorily buy today, so that the worst-case cost (summed over both days) is minimized? Feige et al. and Khandekar et al. considered the k-robust model where the possible outcomes tomorrow are given by all demand-subsets of size k, and gave algorithms for the set cover problem, and the Steiner tree and facility location problems in this model, respectively. In this paper, we give the following simple and intuitive template for k-robust problems: "having built some anticipatory solution, if there exists a single demand whose augmentation cost is larger than some threshold, augment the anticipatory solution to cover this demand as well, and repeat". In this paper we show that this template gives us improved approximation algorithms for k-robust Steiner tree and set cover, and the first approximation algorithms for k-robust Steiner forest, minimum-cut and multicut. All our approximation ratios (except for multicut) are almost best possible. As a by-product of our techniques, we also get algorithms for max-min problems of the form: "given a covering problem instance, which k of the elements are costliest to cover?".