Section: New Results

Optimization Methods

This section describes four independent contributions on optimization.

  • In view of solving convex optimization problems with noisy gradient input, we analyze in the paper [11] the asymptotic behavior of gradient-like flows under stochastic disturbances. Specifically, we focus on the widely studied class of mirror descent schemes for convex programs with compact feasible regions, and we examine the dynamics' convergence and concentration properties in the presence of noise. In the vanishing noise limit, we show that the dynamics converge to the solution set of the underlying problem (a.s.). Otherwise, when the noise is persistent, we show that the dynamics are concentrated around interior solutions in the long run, and they converge to boundary solutions that are sufficiently “sharp”. Finally, we show that a suitably rectified variant of the method converges irrespective of the magnitude of the noise (or the structure of the underlying convex program), and we derive an explicit estimate for its rate of convergence.

  • We examine in paper [12] a class of stochastic mirror descent dynamics in the context of monotone variational inequalities (including Nash equilibrium and saddle-point problems). The dynamics under study are formulated as a stochastic differential equation driven by a (single-valued) monotone operator and perturbed by a Brownian motion. The system's controllable parameters are two variable weight sequences that respectively pre- and post-multiply the driver of the process. By carefully tuning these parameters, we obtain global convergence in the ergodic sense, and we estimate the average rate of convergence of the process. We also establish a large deviations principle showing that individual trajectories exhibit exponential concentration around this average.

  • We develop in [17] a new stochastic algorithm with variance reduction for solving pseudo-monotone stochastic variational inequalities. Our method builds on Tseng's forward-backward-forward algorithm, which is known in the deterministic literature to be a valuable alternative to Korpelevich's extragradient method when solving variational inequalities over a convex and closed set governed with pseudo-monotone and Lipschitz continuous operators. The main computational advantage of Tseng's algorithm is that it relies only on a single projection step, and two independent queries of a stochastic oracle. Our algorithm incorporates a variance reduction mechanism, and leads to a.s. convergence to solutions of a merely pseudo-monotone stochastic variational inequality problem. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first stochastic algorithm achieving this by using only a single projection at each iteration.

  • One of the most widely used training methods for large-scale machine learning problems is distributed asynchronous stochastic gradient descent (DASGD). However, a key issue in its implementation is that of delays: when a “worker” node asynchronously contributes a gradient update to the “master”, the global model parameter may have changed, rendering this information stale. In massively parallel computing grids, these delays can quickly add up if a node is saturated, so the convergence of DASGD is uncertain under these conditions. Nevertheless, by using a judiciously chosen quasilinear step-size sequence, we show in [35] that it is possible to amortize these delays and achieve global convergence with probability 1, even under polynomially growing delays, reaffirming in this way the successful application of DASGD to large-scale optimization problems.