NLPModels.jl and CUTEst.jl: Constrained optimization

| Feb 17, 2017 min read

This is a continuation of this post. And again, you can follow the commands of this post in the asciinema.

If you followed along last post, you should know the basics of our NLPModels API, including CUTEst access.

One thing I didn’t explore, though, was constrained problems. It’d complicate too much.

However, now that we know how to handle the basics, we can move to the advanced.

Nonlinear Programming format

The NLPModels internal structure is based on the CUTEst way of storing a problem. We use the following form for the optimization problem:

$$ \begin{align} \min \quad & f(x) \ s.t. \quad & c_L \leq c(x) \leq c_U \ & \ell \leq x \leq u\end{align} $$

Given an AbstractNLPModel named nlp, the values for $\ell$, $u$, $c_L$ and $c_U$ are stored in an NLPModelMeta structure, and can be accessed by through nlp.meta.

Let’s look back at the simple Rosenbrock problem of before.

using NLPModels

f(x) = (x[1] - 1)^2 + 100*(x[2] - x[1]^2)^2
x0 = [-1.2; 1.0]
nlp = ADNLPModel(f, x0)

You should be seeing this:

Minimization problem Generic
nvar = 2, ncon = 0 (0 linear)
lvar = -Inf  -Inf
uvar = Inf  Inf
lcon = ∅
ucon = ∅
x0 = -1.2  1.0
y0 = ∅
nnzh = 4
nnzj = 0

Although the meaning of these values is reasonably straigthforward, I’ll explain a bit.

  • nvar is the number of variables in a problem;
  • ncon is the number of constraints, without counting the bounds;
  • lvar is the vector $\ell$, the lower bounds on the variables;
  • uvar is the vector $u$, the upper bounds on the variables;
  • lcon is the vector $c_L$, the lower bounds of the constraints function;
  • ucon is the vector $c_U$, the upper bounds of the constraints function;
  • x0 is the initial approximation to the solution, aka the starting point;
  • y0 is the initial approximation to the Lagrange multipliers;
  • nnzh is the number of nonzeros on the Hessian¹;
  • nnzj is the number of nonzeros on the Jacobian¹;

¹ nnzh and nnzj are not consistent between models, because some consider the dense matrix, and for the Hessian, some consider only the triangle. However, if you’re possibly considering using nnzh, you’re probably looking for hess_coord too, and hess_coord returns with the correct size.

These values can be accessed directly as fields in meta with the same name above.



Now, let’s create a bounded problem.

nlp = ADNLPModel(f, x0, lvar=zeros(2), uvar=[0.4; 0.6])

Now the bounds are set, and you can access them with


That’s pretty much it. For SimpleNLPModel, it’s the same thing. MathProgNLPModel inherits the bounds, as expected:

using JuMP

jmp = Model()
u = [0.4; 0.6]
@variable(jmp, 0 <= x[i=1:2] <= u[i], start=(x0[i]))
@NLobjective(jmp, Min, (x[1] - 1)^2 + 100*(x[2] - x[1]^2)^2)
mpbnlp = MathProgNLPModel(jmp)

For CUTEst, there is no differentiation on creating a problem with bounds or not, since it uses the internal description of the problem. For instance, HS4 is a bounded problem.

using CUTEst

clp = CUTEstModel("HS4")

Notice that it can happen that one or more of the variables is unlimited (lower, upper or both). This is represented by the value Inf in Julia. This should be expected since the unconstrained problem already used these Inf values.

On the other hand, it could happen that $\ell_i = u_i$, in which case the variable is fixed, or that $\ell_i > u_i$, in which case the variable (and the problem) is infeasible. Note that NLPModels only creates the model, it doesn’t check whether it is feasible or not, even in this simple example. That said, CUTEst shouldn’t have any infeasible variable.

Furthermore, all these types of bounds can be accessed from meta. Notice that there are 6 possible situations:

  • Free variables, stored in meta.ifree;
  • Fixed variables, stored in meta.ifix;
  • Variables bounded below, stored in meta.ilow;
  • Variables bounded above, stored in meta.iupp;
  • Variables bounded above and below, stored in meta.irng;
  • Infeasible variables, stored in meta.iinf.

Here is one example with one of each of them

nlp = ADNLPModel(x->dot(x,x), zeros(6),
  lvar = [-Inf, -Inf, 0.0, 0.0, 0.0,  0.0],
  uvar = [ Inf,  1.0, Inf, 1.0, 0.0, -1.0])


Constraints are stored in NLPModels following in the format $c_L \leq c(x) \leq c_U$. That means that an equality constraint happens when $c_{L_j} = c_{U_j}$. Let’s look at how to create a problem with constraints.

For ADNLPModel, you need to pass three keywords arguments: c, lcon and ucon, which represent $c(x)$, $c_L$ and $c_U$, respectively. For instance, the problem

$$ \begin{align} \min \quad & x_1^2 + x_2^2 \ s.t. \quad & x_1 + x_2 = 1 \end{align} $$

is created by doing

c(x) = [x[1] + x[2] - 1]
lcon = [0.0]
ucon = [0.0]
nlp = ADNLPModel(x->dot(x,x), zeros(2), c=c, lcon=lcon, ucon=ucon)

or alternatively, if you don’t want the intermediary functions

nlp = ADNLPModel(x->dot(x,x), zeros(2), c=x->[x[1]+x[2]-1], lcon=[0.0], ucon=[0.0])

Another possibility is to do

nlp = ADNLPModel(x->dot(x,x), zeros(2), c=x->[x[1]+x[2]], lcon=[1.0], ucon=[1.0])

Personally, I prefer the former.

For inequalities, you can have only lower, only upper, and both. The commands

nlp = ADNLPModel(x->dot(x,x), zeros(2),
  c=x->[x[1] + x[2]; 3x[1] + 2x[2]; x[1]*x[2]],
  lcon = [-1.0; -Inf; 1.0],
  ucon = [Inf;   3.0; 2.0])

implement the problem

$$ \begin{align} \min \quad & x_1^2 + x_2^2 \ s.t. \quad & x_1 + x_2 \geq -1 \ & 3x_1 + 2x_2 \leq 3 \ & 1 \leq x_1x_2 \leq 2. \end{align} $$

Again, the types of constraints can be accessed in meta, through nlp.meta.jfix, jfree, jinf, jlow, jrng and jupp. Notice if you forget to set lcon and ucon, there will be no constraints, even though c is set. This is because the number of constraints is taken from the lenght of these vectors.

Now, to access these constraints, let’s consider this simple problem.

nlp = ADNLPModel(f, x0, c=x->[x[1]*x[2] - 0.5], lcon=[0.0], ucon=[0.0])

The function cons return $c(x)$.

cons(nlp, nlp.meta.x0)

The function jac returns the Jacobian of $c$. jprod and jtprod the Jacobian product times a vector, and jac_op the LinearOperator.

jac(nlp, nlp.meta.x0)
jprod(nlp, nlp.meta.x0, ones(2))
jtprod(nlp, nlp.meta.x0, ones(1))
J = jac_op(nlp, nlp.meta.x0)
J * ones(2)
J' * ones(1)

To get the Hessian we’ll use the same functions as the unconstrained case, with the addition of a keyword parameter y.

y = [1e4]
hess(nlp, nlp.meta.x0, y=y)
hprod(nlp, nlp.meat.x0, ones(2))
H = hess_op(nlp, nlp.meta.x0, y=y)
H * ones(2)

If you want to ignore the objective function, or scale it by some value, you can use the keyword parameter obj_weight.

s = 0.0
hess(nlp, nlp.meta.x0, y=y, obj_weight=s)
hprod(nlp, nlp.meat.x0, ones(2), obj_weight=s)
H = hess_op(nlp, nlp.meta.x0, y=y, obj_weight=s)
H * ones(2)

Check the API for more details.

We can also create a constrained JuMP model.

x0 = [-1.2; 1.0]
jmp = Model()
@variable(jmp, x[i=1:2], start=(x0[i]))
@NLobjective(jmp, Min, (x[1] - 1)^2 + 100*(x[2] - x[1]^2)^2)
@NLcontraint(jmp, x[1]*x[2] == 0.5)
mpbnlp = MathProgNLPModel(jmp)
cons(mpbnlp, mpbnlp.meta.x0)
jac(mpbnlp, mpbnlp.meta.x0)
hess(mpbnlp, mpbnlp.meta.x0, y=y)

And again, the access in CUTEst problems is the same.

clp = CUTEstModel("BT1")
cons(clp, clp.meta.x0)
jac(clp, clp.meta.x0)
hess(clp, clp.meta.x0, y=clp.meta.y0)

Convenience functions

There are some convenience functions to check whether a problem has only equalities, only bounds, etc. For clarification, we’re gonna say function constraint to refer to constraints that are not bounds.

  • has_bounds: Returns true is variable has bounds.
  • bound_constrained: Returns true if has_bounds and no function constraints;
  • unconstrained: No function constraints nor bounds;
  • linearly_constrained: There are function constraints, and they are linear; obs: even though a bound_constrained problem is linearly constrained, this will return false.
  • equality_constrained: There are function constraints, and they are all equalities;
  • inequality_constrained: There are function constraints, and they are all inequalities;

Example solver

Let’s implement a “simple” solver for constrained optimization. Our solver will loosely follow the Byrd-Omojokun implementation of

M. Lalee, J. Nocedal, and T. Plantenga. On the implementation of an algorithm for large-scale equality constrained optimization. SIAM J. Optim., Vol. 8, No. 3, pp. 682-706, 1998.

function solver(nlp :: AbstractNLPModel)
  if !equality_constrained(nlp)
    error("This solver is for equality constrained problems")
  elseif has_bounds(nlp)
    error("Can't handle bounds")

  x = nlp.meta.x0

  fx = obj(nlp, x)
  cx = cons(nlp, x)

  ∇fx = grad(nlp, x)
  Jx = jac_op(nlp, x)

  λ = cgls(Jx', -∇fx)[1]
  ∇ℓx = ∇fx + Jx'*λ
  norm∇ℓx = norm(∇ℓx)

  Δ = max(0.1, min(100.0, 10norm∇ℓx))
  μ = 1
  v = zeros(nlp.meta.nvar)

  iter = 0
  while (norm∇ℓx > 1e-4 || norm(cx) > 1e-4) && (iter < 10000)
    # Vertical step
    if norm(cx) > 1e-4
      v = cg(Jx'*Jx, -Jx'*cx, radius=0.8Δ)[1]
      Δp = sqrt(Δ^2 - dot(v,v))
      fill!(v, 0)
      Δp = Δ

    # Horizontal step
    # Simplified to consider only ∇ℓx = proj(∇f, Nu(A))
    B = hess_op(nlp, x, y=λ)
    B∇ℓx = B * ∇ℓx
    gtBg = dot(∇ℓx, B∇ℓx)
    gtγ = dot(∇ℓx, ∇fx + B * v)
    t = if gtBg <= 0
      norm∇ℓx > 0 ? Δp/norm∇ℓx : 0.0
      t = min(gtγ/gtBg, Δp/norm∇ℓx)

    d = v - t * ∇ℓx

    # Trial step acceptance
    xt = x + d
    ft = obj(nlp, xt)
    ct = cons(nlp, xt)
    γ = dot(d, ∇fx) + 0.5*dot(d, B * d)
    θ = norm(cx) - norm(Jx * d + cx)
    normλ = norm(λ, Inf)
    if θ <= 0
      μ = normλ
    elseif normλ > γ/θ
      μ = min(normλ, 0.1 + γ/θ)
      μ = 0.1 + γ/θ
    Pred = -γ + μ * θ
    Ared = fx - ft + μ * (norm(cx) - norm(ct))

    ρ = Ared/Pred
    if ρ > 1e-2
      x .= xt
      fx = ft
      cx .= ct
      ∇fx = grad(nlp, x)
      Jx = jac_op(nlp, x)
      λ = cgls(Jx', -∇fx)[1]
      ∇ℓx = ∇fx + Jx'*λ
      norm∇ℓx = norm(∇ℓx)
      if ρ > 0.75 && norm(d) > 0.99Δ
        Δ *= 2.0
      Δ *= 0.5

    iter += 1

  return x, fx, norm∇ℓx, norm(cx)

Too loosely, in fact.

  • The horizontal step computes only the Cauchy step;
  • No special updates;
  • No second-order correction;
  • No efficient implementation beyond the easy-to-do.

To test how good it is, let’s run on the Hock-Schittkowski constrained problems.

function runcutest()
  problems = filter(x->contains(x, "HS") && length(x) <= 5,, only_equ_con=true))
  @printf("%-7s  %15s  %15s  %15s\n",
          "Problem", "f(x)", "‖∇ℓ(x,λ)‖", "‖c(x)‖")
  for p in problems
    nlp = CUTEstModel(p)
      x, fx, nlx, ncx = solver(nlp)
      @printf("%-7s  %15.8e  %15.8e  %15.8e\n", p, fx, nlx, ncx)
      @printf("%-7s  %s\n", p, "failure")

I’m gonna print the output of this one, so you can compare it with yours.

Problem             f(x)        ‖∇ℓ(x,λ)‖           ‖c(x)‖
HS26      5.15931251e-07   9.88009545e-05   5.24359322e-05
HS27      4.00000164e-02   5.13264248e-05   2.26312672e-09
HS28      7.00144545e-09   9.46563681e-05   2.44249065e-15
HS39     -1.00000010e+00   1.99856691e-08   1.61607518e-07
HS40     -2.50011760e-01   4.52797064e-05   2.53246505e-05
HS42      1.38577292e+01   5.06661945e-05   5.33092868e-05
HS46      3.56533430e-06   9.98827045e-05   8.00086215e-05
HS47      3.53637757e-07   9.71339790e-05   7.70496596e-05
HS48      4.65110036e-10   4.85457139e-05   2.27798719e-15
HS49      3.14248189e-06   9.94899395e-05   2.27488138e-13
HS50      1.36244906e-12   2.16913725e-06   2.90632554e-14
HS51      1.58249170e-09   8.52213221e-05   6.52675179e-15
HS52      5.32664756e+00   3.35626559e-05   3.21155766e-14
HS56     -3.45604528e+00   9.91076239e-05   3.14471179e-05
HS6       5.93063756e-13   6.88804464e-07   9.61311292e-06
HS61     -1.43646176e+02   1.06116455e-05   1.80421875e-05
HS7      -1.73205088e+00   1.23808109e-11   2.60442422e-07
HS77      2.41501014e-01   8.31210333e-05   7.75367223e-05
HS78     -2.91972281e+00   2.27102179e-05   2.88776440e-05
HS79      7.87776482e-02   4.77319205e-05   7.55827729e-05
HS8      -1.00000000e+00   0.00000000e+00   2.39989802e-06
HS9      -5.00000000e-01   1.23438228e-06   3.55271368e-15

If you compare against the Hock-Schitkowski paper, you’ll see that the method converged for all 22 problems. Considering our simplifications, this is a very exciting.

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