Full-low evaluation methods for derivative-free optimization

We propose a new class of rigorous methods for derivative-free optimization with the aim of delivering efficient and robust numerical performance for functions of all types, from smooth to non-smooth, and under different noise regimes. To this end, we have developed Full-Low Evaluation methods, organized around two main types of iterations. The first iteration type is expensive in function evaluations, but exhibits good performance in the smooth and non-noisy cases. For the theory, we consider a line search based on an approximate gradient, backtracking until a sufficient decrease condition is satisfied. In practice, the gradient was approximated via finite differences, and the direction was calculated by a quasi-Newton step (BFGS). The second iteration type is cheap in function evaluations, yet more robust in the presence of noise or non-smoothness. For the theory, we consider direct search, and in practice we use probabilistic direct search with one random direction and its negative. A switch condition from Full-Eval to Low-Eval iterations was developed based on the values of the line-search and direct-search stepsizes. If enough Full-Eval steps are taken, we derive a complexity result of gradient-descent type. Under failure of Full-Eval, the Low-Eval iterations become the drivers of convergence yielding non-smooth convergence. Full-Low Evaluation methods are shown to be efficient and robust in practice across problems with different levels of smoothness and noise.


A. S. Berahas, O. Sohab, and L. N. Vicente, Full-low evaluation methods for derivative-free optimization, ISE Technical Report 21T-016, Lehigh University.



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