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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A bottleneck is a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources. The term bottleneck is taken from the 'assets are water' metaphor. As water is poured out of a bottle, the rate of outflow is limited by the width of the conduit of exit - that is, bottleneck. Increase the width of the bottleneck, and you can increase the rate of which the water flows out. Pertaining to a business, a firm will address the 'bottleneck' that is limiting production.


Project management

A bottleneck in project management is one process in a chain of processes, such that its limited capacity reduces the capacity of the whole chain. The component is sometimes called a bottleneck point. The term is metaphorically derived from the bottleneck of a bottle, where the flow speed of the liquid is limited by its neck.

A related concept in project management are:

And an example is the lack of smelter and refinery supply which cause bottlenecks upstream.

Another example is in a Surface Mount Technology (SMT) Board Assembly Line with several equipments aligned, usually the common sense is driven to set up and shift the bottleneck element towards the end of the process, inducing the better and faster machines to always keep the PCB supply flowing up, never allowing the slower ones to fully stop, a fact that would be heeded as a deleterious and significant overall drawback on the process.


In engineering, a bottleneck is a phenomenon by which the performance or capacity of an entire system is severely limited by a single component. The component is sometimes called a bottleneck point. The term is metaphorically derived from the neck of a bottle, where the flow speed of the liquid is limited by its neck.

Formally, a bottleneck lies on a system's critical path and provides the lowest throughput. Bottlenecks are usually avoided by system designers, also a great amount of effort is directed at locating and tuning them. Bottleneck may be for example a processor, a communication link, a data processing software, etc.


The roadworks on the right side of the road forces all traffic to travel through one lane, causing a bottleneck and a major traffic jam.
Bottleneck in traffic caused by a road construction

Metaphorically a bottleneck is a section of a route with a carrying capacity substantially below that characterising other sections of the same route. This is often a narrow part of a road, perhaps also with a smaller number of lanes, or a reduction of the number of tracks of a railway line. It may be due to a narrow bridge or tunnel, a deep cutting or narrow embankment, or work in progress on part of the road or railway.

Capacity bottlenecks are the most vulnerable points in a network and are very often the subject of offensive or defensive military actions. Capacity bottlenecks of strategic importance - such as the Panama Canal where traffic is limited by the infrastructure - are normally referred to as chokepoints; capacity bottlenecks of tactical value are referred to as mobility corridors.

Bottlenecks in software

In computer programming, tracking down bottlenecks (sometimes known as "hot spots" - sections of the code that execute most frequently - i.e. have the highest execution count) is called performance analysis. Reduction is usually achieved with the help of specialized tools, known as performance analyzers or profilers. The objective being to make those particular sections of code perform as fast as possible to improve overall algorithmic efficiency.

Bottlenecks in max-min fairness

In a communication network, sometimes a max-min fairness of the network is desired, usually opposed to the basic first-come first-served policy. With max-min fairness, data flow between any two nodes is maximized, but only at the cost of more or equally expensive data flows. To put it another way, in case of network congestion any data flow is only impacted by smaller or equal flows.

In such context, a bottleneck link for a given data flow is a link that is fully utilized (is saturated) and of all the flows sharing this link, the given data flow achieves maximum data rate network-wide.[1] Note that this definition is substantially different from a common meaning of a bottleneck. Also note, that this definition does not forbid a single link to be a bottleneck for multiple flows.

A data rate allocation is max-min fair if and only if a data flow between any two nodes has at least one bottleneck link.

See also


  1. ^ Jean-Yves Le Boudec (EPFL Lausanne) "Rate adaptation, Congestion Control and Fairness: A Tutorial" Nov 2005


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