A Market-Oriented Programming Environment and its Application to Distributed Multicommodity Flow Problems

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Market price systems constitute a well-understood class of mechanisms that under certain conditions provide effective decentralization of decision making with minimal communication overhead. In a market-oriented programming approach to distributed problem solving, we derive the activities and resource allocations for a set of computational agents by computing the competitive equilibrium of an artificial economy. WALRAS provides basic constructs for defining computational market structures, and protocols for deriving their corresponding price equilibria. In a particular realization of this approach for a form of multicommodity flow problem, we see that careful construction of the decision process according to economic principles can lead to efficient distributed resource allocation, and that the behavior of the system can be meaningfully analyzed in economic terms.

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