Online Allocation with Traffic Spikes: Mixing Adversarial and Stochastic Models


Motivated by Internet advertising applications, online allocation problems have been studied extensively in various adversarial and stochastic models. While the adversarial arrival models are too pessimistic, many of the stochastic (such as i.i.d or random-order) arrival models do not realistically capture uncertainty in predictions. A significant cause for such uncertainty is the presence of unpredictable traffic spikes, often due to breaking news or similar events. To address this issue, a simultaneous approximation framework has been proposed to develop algorithms that work well both in the adversarial and stochastic models; however, this framework does not enable algorithms that make good use of partially accurate forecasts when making online decisions. In this paper, we propose a robust online stochastic model that captures the nature of traffic spikes in online advertising. In our model, in addition to the stochastic input for which we have good forecasting, an unknown number of impressions arrive that are adversarially chosen.We design algorithms that combine an stochastic algorithm with an online algorithm that adaptively reacts to inaccurate predictions. We provide provable bounds for our new algorithms in this framework. We accompany our positive results with a set of hardness results showing that that our algorithms are not far from optimal in this framework. As a byproduct of our results, we also present improved online algorithms for a slight variant of the simultaneous approximation framework.