Partitioning Algorithms

A typical algorithmic strategy is partitioning, which involves breaking a big issue into smaller subproblems that may be solved individually and then combining their solutions to solve the original problem.

The fundamental concept underlying partitioning is to separate the input into subsets, solve each subset independently, and then combine the results to get the whole answer. From sorting algorithms to parallel computing, partitioning has a wide range of uses.

The quicksort algorithm is a well-known illustration of partitioning. The effective sorting algorithm QuickSort uses partitioning to arrange an array of items. The algorithm divides the array into two subarrays: one having elements smaller than the pivot and the other holding entries bigger than the pivot. The pivot element is often the first or final member of the array. The pivot element is then positioned correctly, and the procedure is then performed recursively on the two subarrays to sort the full array.

The quicksort method is demonstrated using an array of numbers in the following example −

Input: [5, 3, 8, 4, 2, 7, 1, 6]

Step 1 − Select a pivot element (in this case, 5)

[5, 3, 8, 4, 2, 7, 1, 6]

Step 2 − Partition the array into two subarrays

[3, 4, 2, 1] [5] [8, 7, 6]

Step 3 − Recursively apply quicksort to the two subarrays

[3, 4, 2, 1] [5] [8, 7, 6]

[1, 2, 3, 4] [5] [6, 7, 8]

[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]

Step 4 − The array is now sorted

[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]

The quicksort method in this example divides the input array into three smaller subarrays, uses the quicksort algorithm iteratively on the two of the smaller subarrays, then combines the sorted subarrays to get the final sorted array.


Performance gains

By allowing distinct sections of a problem to be addressed in parallel or on multiple processors, partitioning can result in considerable performance gains. Faster processing speeds and improved resource use may follow from this.

Improved Performance

The capacity of algorithms to handle bigger data sets and issue sizes is referred to as scalability. Partitioning can aid in this process.


Partitioning can simplify complicated issues by dividing them into smaller, easier-to-manage sub-issues. This can facilitate understanding and solution of the issue.


Added complexity

Partitioning can make an algorithm more complicated since it calls for extra logic to maintain the various partitions and coordinate their operations.

Communication costs

When using partitioning to parallelize a task, communication costs might be a major obstacle. The communication burden may outweigh the performance benefits of parallelization if the partitions must communicate often.

Load imbalance

If the sub-problems are not equally large or challenging, partitioning may result in load imbalance. Overall performance may suffer as a result of certain processors sitting idle while others are overworked.

Types of Partitioning Algorithms

Operating systems utilise partitioning algorithms to manage how much memory is allocated to each process. According to the processes' sizes and other requirements, these algorithms divide or segment the memory.

Several partitioning algorithms are used by operating systems, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Fixed Partitioning

Each block or partition of memory that is divided into fixed-size units is assigned to a particular process. The number of divisions is fixed and cannot be changed dynamically. This implies that the memory that is accessible is split up into a set number of partitions that are all the same size and can only hold one process at a time.

Dynamic Partitioning

Memory is divided into blocks or divisions of variable sizes via dynamic partitioning, and each block or partition is assigned to a process as needed. Because of this, the available memory is divided into chunks of varying sizes, and each chunk may be assigned to a job based on how much memory it requires.

Dynamic partitioning allows for efficient memory utilisation since processes are only given the memory they require. It also reduces internal fragmentation since memory portions are allocated dynamically.

Best-Fit Partitioning

The smallest division that can accommodate the process is specified by the best-fit partitioning method. Memory use is increasing but internal fragmentation is decreasing. Nevertheless, because the operating system must locate the smallest partition that can accommodate the process, this approach could be slower and less effective.

Worst-Fit Partitioning

With the worst-fit partitioning method, the process is allocated the biggest partition that can contain it. Fragmentation could rise as a result of the decreased utilisation of partitions. In contrast to best-fit partitioning, the operating system can quickly assign the biggest available partition to the process.

First-Fit Partitioning

With the first-fit partitioning method, the process is allocated the first available partition that can fit it. This method is simple and efficient, however it could create greater fragmentation because certain small partitions are left unused.

Next-Fit Partitioning

Instead of starting at the beginning while looking for a free partition, the next-fit partitioning method starts from the most recently allocated partition. This can reduce fragmentation and improve efficiency since fewer tiny divisions are likely to be left idle. An unequal distribution of memory may be the result of long gaps between allocated partitions.

Limitation and Challenges

While partitioning algorithms have numerous advantages, they can have serious drawbacks and difficulties. The overhead of using partitioning algorithms in practice is one of the major obstacles. Performance may suffer if a larger resource or problem requires more processing power and memory.

Another challenge is the complexity of managing several divisions. When the number of partitions increases, it could be harder to manage and keep track of each operating system component. Moreover, some partitioning techniques can require extra maintenance and configuration, which would add to the total workload of the system administrators.

Finally, partitioning algorithms may involve performance and security trade-offs. As an illustration, network partitioning, which isolates different network components from one another to improve security, can also cause increased latency and lower network performance.

Applications of Partitioning Algorithms

One may find partitioning algorithms used in embedded devices, data centres, and cloud computing, to name a few real-world applications. The following are a few real-world applications that make use of partitioning algorithms −

Cloud Computing

One of the key benefits of cloud computing is the scalable, on-demand access to computer resources. To attain this level of scalability and flexibility, however, cloud service providers must effectively divide and manage resources across various tenants using partitioning algorithms. Network or disc partitioning, for instance, may be used by cloud service providers to divide up different types of network traffic or to allocate storage space among different clients.

Data Centers

In data centres, resource management and performance assurance depend on partitioning algorithms. For instance, data centre administrators may use memory partitioning to make sure that each virtual machine has its own allotted amount of memory or process partitioning to divide large programmes into smaller, simpler-to-manage components.

Embedded Systems

Disc partitioning algorithms are often used in embedded systems, which are computers built into other pieces of machinery or equipment. In a smartphone, for instance, process partitioning may be utilised to separate the operating system from user apps, improving overall stability and speed.


Partitioning algorithms are a crucial technique for managing the complexity of modern operating systems. Many advantages and benefits are offered by them, including better resource management, performance, manageability, and security. They do, however, also have a number of disadvantages and challenges, including as complexity, cost, and possible performance and security trade-offs.

In order to manage resources and ensure optimal performance as operating systems advance and grow more complex, partitioning algorithms will undoubtedly remain essential.

Updated on: 20-Jul-2023


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