Date of Original Version



Working Paper

Abstract or Description

In the Steiner Forest problem, we are given terminal pairs {si,ti}, and need to find the cheapest subgraph which connects each of the terminal pairs together. In 1991, Agrawal, Klein, and Ravi, and Goemans and Williamson gave primal-dual constant-factor approximation algorithms for this problem; until now, the only constant-factor approximations we know are via linear programming relaxations.

We consider the following greedy algorithm: Given terminal pairs in a metric space, call a terminal "active" if its distance to its partner is non-zero. Pick the two closest active terminals (say si,tj), set the distance between them to zero, and buy a path connecting them. Recompute the metric, and repeat. Our main result is that this algorithm is a constant-factor approximation.

We also use this algorithm to give new, simpler constructions of cost-sharing schemes for Steiner forest. In particular, the first "group-strict" cost-shares for this problem implies a very simple combinatorial sampling-based algorithm for stochastic Steiner forest.