DecreaseKeys are expensive for external memory priority queues

Kasper Eenberg, Kasper Green Larsen, Huacheng Yu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

7 Scopus citations


One of the biggest open problems in external memory data structures is the priority queue problem with DecreaseKey operations. If only Insert and ExtractMin operations need to be supported, one can design a comparison-based priority queue performing O((N/B) lgM/B N) I/Os over a sequence of N operations, where B is the disk block size in number of words and M is the main memory size in number of words. This matches the lower bound for comparison-based sorting and is hence optimal for comparison-based priority queues. However, if we also need to support DecreaseKeys, the performance of the best known priority queue is only O((N/B) lg2 N) I/Os. The big open question is whether a degradation in performance really is necessary. We answer this question affirmatively by proving a lower bound of Ω((N/B) lglgN B) I/Os for processing a sequence of N intermixed Insert, ExtraxtMin and DecreaseKey operations. Our lower bound is proved in the cell probe model and thus holds also for non-comparison-based priority queues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSTOC 2017 - Proceedings of the 49th Annual ACM SIGACT Symposium on Theory of Computing
EditorsPierre McKenzie, Valerie King, Hamed Hatami
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781450345286
StatePublished - Jun 19 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event49th Annual ACM SIGACT Symposium on Theory of Computing, STOC 2017 - Montreal, Canada
Duration: Jun 19 2017Jun 23 2017

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Annual ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing
VolumePart F128415
ISSN (Print)0737-8017


Other49th Annual ACM SIGACT Symposium on Theory of Computing, STOC 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software


  • Communication complexity
  • External memory
  • Lower bound
  • Priority queues


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