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Scalable Bottom-Up Hierarchical Clustering

by   Nicholas Monath, et al.

Bottom-up algorithms such as the classic hierarchical agglomerative clustering, are highly effective for hierarchical as well as flat clustering. However, the large number of rounds and their sequential nature limit the scalability of agglomerative clustering. In this paper, we present an alternative round-based bottom-up hierarchical clustering, the Sub-Cluster Component Algorithm (SCC), that scales gracefully to massive datasets. Our method builds many sub-clusters in parallel in a given round and requires many fewer rounds – usually an order of magnitude smaller than classic agglomerative clustering. Our theoretical analysis shows that, under a modest separability assumption, SCC will contain the optimal flat clustering. SCC also provides a 2-approx solution to the DP-means objective, thereby introducing a novel application of hierarchical clustering methods. Empirically, SCC finds better hierarchies and flat clusterings even when the data does not satisfy the separability assumption. We demonstrate the scalability of our method by applying it to a dataset of 30 billion points and showing that SCC produces higher quality clusterings than the state-of-the-art.


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