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Beyond Optimality: New Trends in Network Optimization

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Optimization of communication networks has recently witnessed an impressive growth of research activities. In addition to viewing networks as objects to be optimized, some of these works also view networks as optimizers themselves. In addition to `Design by Optimization’, some recent results also demonstrate the principle of `Design for Optimizability’. Indeed, more than a tool to solve for optimal resource allocation, optimization theory provides to networking applications all of the following: a modeling language for design, a reverse-engineering methodology for analysis, a theoretical foundation for architectural decisions, a quantitative basis for fairness and robustness, and even an indicator of flaws in engineering assumptions. Many of these new uses of optimization actually do not involve solving any problem optimally.

Reflecting upon the history of optimization-based solutions to congestion, collision, and interference in the last 15 years, this talk discusses the reach and limitation of network optimization. Then, drawing from recent results on open problems in stochastic utility maximization and Internet routing, this talk surveys the emerging trends that give many new meanings to the phrase `Optimization of Networks and by Networks’.

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