canonical labeling, graph isomorphism, graph automorphism, symmetry, parallel algorithm


The graph isomorphism problem has received a great deal of attention on both theoretical and practical fronts. However, a polynomial algorithm for the problem has yet to be found. Even so, the best of the existing algorithms perform well in practice; so well that it is challenging to find hard instances for them. The most efficient algorithms, for determining if a pair of graphs are isomorphic, are based on the individualization-refinement paradigm, pioneered by Brendan McKay in 1981 with his algorithm nauty. Nauty and various improved descendants of nauty, such as bliss and saucy, solve the graph isomorphism problem by determining a canonical representative for each of the graphs. The graphs are isomorphic if and only if their canonical representatives are identical. These algorithms also detect the symmetries in a graph which are used to speed up the search for the canonical representative--an approach that performs well in practice. Yet, several families of graphs have been shown to exist which are hard for nauty-like algorithms. This dissertation investigates why these graph families pose difficulty for individualization-refinement algorithms and proposes several techniques for circumventing these limitations. The first technique we propose addresses a fundamental problem pointed out by Miyazaki in 1993. He constructed a family of colored graphs which require exponential time for nauty (and nauty's improved descendants). We analyze Miyazaki's construction to determine the source of difficulty and identify a solution. We modify the base individualization-refinement algorithm by exploiting the symmetries discovered in a graph to guide the search for its canonical representative. This is accomplished with the help of a novel data structure called a guide tree. As a consequence, colored Miyazaki graphs are processed in polynomial time--thus obviating the only known exponential upper-bound on individualization-refinement algorithms (which has stood for the last 16 years). The preceding technique can only help if a graph has enough symmetry to exploit. It cannot be used for another family of hard graphs that have a high degree of regularity, but possess few actual symmetries. To handle these instances, we introduce an adaptive refinement method which utilizes the guide-tree data structure of the preceding technique to use a stronger vertex-invariant, but only when needed. We show that adaptive refinement is very effective, and it can result in dramatic speedups. We then present a third technique ideally suited for large graphs with a preponderance of sparse symmetries. A method was devised by Darga et al. for dealing with these large and highly symmetric graphs, which can reduce runtime by an order of magnitude. We explain the method and show how to incorporate it into our algorithm. Finally, we develop and implement a parallel algorithm for detecting the symmetries in, and finding a canonical representative of a graph. Our novel parallel algorithm divides the search for the symmetries and canonical representative among each processor, allowing for a high degree of scalability. The parallel algorithm is benchmarked on the hardest problem instances, and shown to be effective in subdividing the search space.


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Graduation Date



Deo, Narsingh


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Degree Program

Computer Science








Release Date

February 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)