Advanced Data Structures

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Skip List

What is Skip List ?
  • Invented around 1990 by Bill Pugh.
  • Efficient Dynamic Search Structure: Expected search time is O(log n)
  • Randomized data structure: Use random coin flips to build the data structure
Why Skip List ?
  • Worst case search time for a sorted linked list is O(n) as we can only linearly traverse the list and cannot skip nodes while searching.
  • For a Balanced Binary Search Tree, we skip almost half of the nodes after one comparison with root and hence O(logn).
  • For a sorted array, we have random access and we can apply Binary Search on arrays and hence O(logn).
  • We can do similar things by augmenting list as Skip List.

Express and Normal Lane

  • We will make use of normal and express lane for understanding this concept.
  • Example: 16 nodes Normal lane with 4 nodes Express Lane


Exstimating Complexity:
  • The worst case time complexity is number of nodes on express lane plus number of nodes in a segment (b/w 2 express lane nodes).
  • Here n normal nodes and √n express nodes.
  • Average time complexity: O(√n)
  • Auxilliary Space: O(√n)

Doing Better than O(√n) : Increase Levels

  • The time complexity of skip lists can be reduced further by adding more layers.
  • In fact, the time complexity of search, insert and delete can become O(Logn) in average case with O(n) extra space.


Skip List Insertion


Deciding nodes level while Insertion:
  • Each element in the list is represented by a node, the level of the node is chosen randomly while insertion in the list.
  • Level does not depend on the number of elements in the node.
  • The level for node is decided by the following algorithm:
    lvl := 1
    //random() that returns a random value in [0...1)
    while random() < p and lvl < MaxLevel do
        lvl := lvl + 1

    return lvl
  • MaxLevel is the upper bound on number of levels in the skip list and can be determined by L(N) = logp/2N.
  • Above algorithm assure that random level will never be greater than MaxLevel.
  • Here p is the fraction of the nodes with level i pointers also having level i+1 pointers and N is the number of nodes in the list.
from random import random

class Node:
    def __init__(self, key, level):
        self.key = key = [None]*(level+1)

class SkipList:
    def __init__(self, max_level, P):
        # Maximum level for this skip list
        self.max_level = max_level
        # P is the fraction of the nodes with level i references also having level i+1 references
        self.P = P
        # create head node and initialize key to -1
        self.head = Node(-1, max_level)
        # temp level of skip list 
        self.level = 0

    def get_random_level(self): 
        lvl = 0
        while random() < self.P and lvl < self.max_level:
            lvl += 1
        return lvl

    def insert_key(self, key):
        # create update array and initialize it 
        update = [None]*(self.max_level+1) 
        temp = self.head

        # start from highest level of skip list move the temp reference next while key  
        # is greater than key of node next to temp, Otherwise inserted temp in update and  
        # move one level down and continue search.
        for i in range(self.level, -1, -1): 
            while[i] and[i].key < key: 
                temp =[i] 
            update[i] = temp

        # reached level 0, now get the node next to temp, need to insert b/w temp and next_node
        next_node =[0]

        # if next_node is NULL that means we have reached to end of the level or 
        # if next_node's key != key to insert that means we have to insert node between update[0] and next_node
        if next_node == None or next_node.key != key:
            # Generate a random level for node 
            random_level = self.get_random_level()

            # If random level is greater than list's next_node level 
            # (node with highest level inserted in list so far),
            # initialize update value with reference to head for further use 
            if random_level > self.level: 
                for i in range(self.level+1, random_level+1): 
                    update[i] = self.head
                self.level = random_level

            # create new node with random level generated
            new_node = Node(key, random_level)

            # insert node by rearranging references  
            for i in range(random_level+1): 
      [i] = update[i].next[i] 
                update[i].next[i] = new_node

            print(key, end=" ")

    def display_list(self): 
        print("\n\nFinal Skip List Level wise:") 
        head = self.head 
        for lvl in range(self.level+1): 
            print("Level - [{}]: ".format(lvl), end=" ") 
            node =[lvl] 
            while(node != None): 
                print(node.key, end=" ") 
                node =[lvl] 

# Driver Program
print("Skip List Example:")
lst = SkipList(3, 0.5)
print("Insert Keys: ", end=" ")


  • Time: Search - O(logn) and Insert - O(logn)
  • Auxilliary Space: O(logn)

Skip List Deletion