Extended formulations, nonnegative factorizations, and randomized communication protocols
An extended formulation of a polyhedron is a linear description of a polyhedron together with a linear map such that . These objects are of fundamental importance in polyhedral combinatorics and optimization theory, and the subject of a number of studies. Yannakakis' factorization theorem (Yannakakis in J Comput Syst Sci 43(3):441-466, 1991) provides a surprising connection between extended formulations and communication complexity, showing that the smallest size of an extended formulation of equals the nonnegative rank of its slack matrix . Moreover, Yannakakis also shows that the nonnegative rank of is at most , where is the complexity of any deterministic protocol computing . In this paper, we show that the latter result can be strengthened when we allow protocols to be randomized. In particular, we prove that the base- logarithm of the nonnegative rank of any nonnegative matrix equals the minimum complexity of a randomized communication protocol computing the matrix in expectation. Using Yannakakis' factorization theorem, this implies that the base- logarithm of the smallest size of an extended formulation of a polytope equals the minimum complexity of a randomized communication protocol computing the slack matrix of in expectation. We show that allowing randomization in the protocol can be crucial for obtaining small extended formulations. Specifically, we prove that for the spanning tree and perfect matching polytopes, small variance in the protocol forces large size in the extended formulation.