Parallel and distributed successive convex approximation methods for big-data optimization

Gesualdo Scutari, Ying Sun

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

39 Scopus citations


Recent years have witnessed a surge of interest in parallel and distributed optimization methods for large-scale systems. In particular, nonconvex large-scale optimization problems have found a wide range of applications in several engineering fields. The design and the analysis of such complex, large-scale, systems pose several challenges and call for the development of new optimization models and algorithms. First, many of the aforementioned applications lead to huge-scale optimization problems. These problems are often referred to as big-data. This calls for the development of solution methods that operate in parallel, exploiting hierarchical computational architectures. Second, many networked systems are spatially (or virtually) distributed. Due to the size of such networks and often to the proprietary regulations, these systems do not possess a single central coordinator or access point that is able to solve alone the entire optimization problem. In this setting, the goal is to develop distributed solution methods that operate seamless in-network. Third, many formulations of interest are nonconvex, with nonconvex objective functions and/or constraints. Except for very special cases, computing the global optimal solution of nonconvex problems might be computationally prohibitive in several practical applications. The desiderata is designing (parallel/distributed) solution methods that are easy to implement (in the sense that the computations performed by the workers are not expensive), with provable convergence to stationary solutions (e.g., local optima) of the nonconvex problem under consideration. To this regard, a powerful and general tool is offered by the so-called Successive Convex Approximation (SCA) techniques: as proxy of the nonconvex problem, a sequence of “more tractable” (possibly convex) subproblems is solved, wherein the original nonconvex functions are replaced by properly chosen “simpler” surrogates. In this contribution, we put forth a general, unified, algorithmic framework, based on Successive Convex Approximation techniques, for the parallel and distributed solution of a general class of non-convex constrained (non-separable, networked) problems. The presented framework unifies and generalizes several existing SCA methods, making them appealing for a parallel/distributed implementation while offering a flexible selection of function approximants, step size schedules, and control of the computation/communication efficiency. This contribution is organized according to the lectures that one of the authors delivered at the CIME Summer School on Centralized and Distributed Multi-agent Optimization Models and Algorithms held in Cetraro, Italy, June 23–27, 2014. These lectures are: I) Successive Convex Approximation Methods: Basics; II) Parallel Successive Convex Approximation Methods; and III) Distributed Successive Convex Approximation Methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLecture Notes in Mathematics
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages168
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Mathematics
ISSN (Print)0075-8434

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Algebra and Number Theory


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