Shrinking Maxima, Decreasing Costs: New Online Packing and Covering Problems

Pierre Fraigniaud, Magnús M. Halldórsson, Boaz Patt-Shamir, Dror Rawitz*, Adi Rosén

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We consider two new variants of online integer programs that are duals. In the packing problem we are given a set of items and a collection of knapsack constraints over these items that are revealed over time in an online fashion. Upon arrival of a constraint we may need to remove several items (irrevocably) so as to maintain feasibility of the solution. Hence, the set of packed items becomes smaller over time. The goal is to maximize the number, or value, of packed items. The problem originates from a buffer-overflow model in communication networks, where items represent information units broken into multiple packets. The other problem considered is online covering: there is a universe to be covered. Sets arrive online, and we must decide for each set whether we add it to the cover or give it up. The cost of a solution is the total cost of sets taken, plus a penalty for each uncovered element. The number of sets in the solution grows over time, but its cost goes down. This problem is motivated by team formation, where the universe consists of skills, and sets represent candidates we may hire. The packing problem was introduced in Emek et al. (SIAM J Comput 41(4):728–746, 2012) for the special case where the matrix is binary; in this paper we extend the solution to general matrices with non-negative integer entries. The covering problem is introduced in this paper; we present matching upper and lower bounds on its competitive ratio.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1205-1223
Number of pages19
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • Competitive analysis
  • Online set packing
  • Packing integer programs
  • Prize-collecting multi-covering
  • Randomized algorithm
  • Team formation


Dive into the research topics of 'Shrinking Maxima, Decreasing Costs: New Online Packing and Covering Problems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this