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Nonlinear Optimization Methods

Choosing an Optimization Algorithm

The factors that go into choosing a particular optimization technique for a particular problem are complex and might involve trial and error.

For many optimization problems, computing the gradient takes more computer time than computing the function value, and computing the Hessian sometimes takes much more computer time and memory than computing the gradient, especially when there are many decision variables. Unfortunately, optimization techniques that do not use some kind of Hessian approximation usually require many more iterations than techniques that do use a Hessian matrix, and as a result the total run time of these techniques is often longer. Techniques that do not use the Hessian also tend to be less reliable. For example, they can more easily terminate at stationary points rather than at global optima.

A few general remarks about the various optimization techniques follow.

  • The second-derivative methods TRUREG, NEWRAP, and NRRIDG are best for small problems where the Hessian matrix is not expensive to compute. Sometimes the NRRIDG algorithm can be faster than the TRUREG algorithm, but TRUREG can be more stable. The NRRIDG algorithm requires only one matrix with double words; TRUREG and NEWRAP require two such matrices.

  • The first-derivative methods QUANEW and DBLDOG are best for medium-sized problems where the objective function and the gradient are much faster to evaluate than the Hessian. The QUANEW and DBLDOG algorithms, in general, require more iterations than TRUREG, NRRIDG, and NEWRAP, but each iteration can be much faster. The QUANEW and DBLDOG algorithms require only the gradient to update an approximate Hessian, and they require slightly less memory than TRUREG or NEWRAP (essentially one matrix with double words). QUANEW is the default optimization method.

  • The first-derivative method CONGRA is best for large problems where the objective function and the gradient can be computed much faster than the Hessian and where too much memory is required to store the (approximate) Hessian. The CONGRA algorithm, in general, requires more iterations than QUANEW or DBLDOG, but each iteration can be much faster. Since CONGRA requires only a factor of double-word memory, many large applications can be solved only by CONGRA.

  • The no-derivative method NMSIMP is best for small problems where derivatives are not continuous or are very difficult to compute.

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