Cache-adaptive analysis was introduced to analyze the performance of an algorithm when the cache (or internal memory) available to the algorithm dynamically changes size. These memory-size fluctuations are, in fact, the common case in multi-core machines,where threads share cache and RAM. An algorithm is said to be efficiently cache-adaptive if it achieves optimal utilization of the dynamically changing cache.

Cache-adaptive analysis was inspired by cache-oblivious analysis. Many (or even most) optimal cache-oblivious algorithms have an (a,b,c)-regular recursive structure. Such (a,b,c)-regular algorithms include Longest Common Subsequence, All Pairs Shortest Paths, matrix multiplication, Edit Distance, Gaussian Elimination Paradigm, etc. Bender et al. (2016) showed that some of these optimal cache-oblivious algorithms remain optimal even when cache changes size dynamically, but that in general they can be as much as logarithmic factor away from optimal. However, their analysis depends on constructing a highly structured, worst-case memory profile, or sequences of fluctuations in cache size. These worst-case profiles seem fragile, suggesting that the logarithmic gap may bean artifact of an unrealistically powerful adversary.

We close the gap between cache-oblivious and cache-adaptive analysis by showing how to make a smoothed analysis of cache-adaptive algorithms via random reshuffling of memory fluctuations. Remarkably, we also show the limits of several natural forms of smoothing, including random perturbations of the cache size and randomizing the algorithm’s starting time. Nonetheless, we show that if one takes an arbitrary profile and performs a random shuffle on when “significant events” occur within the profile, then the shuffled profile becomes optimally cache-adaptive in expectation, even when the initial profile is adversarially constructed.

These results suggest that cache-obliviousness is a solid foundation for achieving cache-adaptivity when the memory profile is not overly tailored to the algorithm structure.


July, 2020


  • Michael A. Bender
  • Rezaul Chowdhury
  • Rathish Das
  • Rob Johnson
  • William Kuszmaul
  • Andrea Lincoln
  • Quanquan Liu
  • Jayson Lynch
  • Helen Xu

Related projects

Research Areas

  • Cache-Oblivious Algorithms