Robust accelerated gradient methods for smooth strongly convex functions

Necdet Serhat Aybat, Alireza Fallah, Mert Gürbüzbalaban, Asuman Ozdaglar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


We study the trade-offs between convergence rate and robustness to gradient errors in designing a first-order algorithm. We focus on gradient descent and accelerated gradient (AG) methods for minimizing strongly convex functions when the gradient has random errors in the form of additive white noise. With gradient errors, the function values of the iterates need not converge to the optimal value; hence, we define the robustness of an algorithm to noise as the asymptotic expected suboptimality of the iterate sequence to input noise power. For this robustness measure, we provide exact expressions for the quadratic case using tools from robust control theory and tight upper bounds for the smooth strongly convex case using Lyapunov functions certified through matrix inequalities. We use these characterizations within an optimization problem which selects parameters of each algorithm to achieve a particular trade-off between rate and robustness. Our results show that AG can achieve acceleration while being more robust to random gradient errors. This behavior is quite different than previously reported in the deterministic gradient noise setting. We also establish some connections between the robustness of an algorithm and how quickly it can converge back to the optimal solution if it is perturbed from the optimal point with deterministic noise. Our framework also leads to practical algorithms that can perform better than other state-of-the-art methods in the presence of random gradient noise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)717-751
Number of pages35
JournalSIAM Journal on Optimization
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Applied Mathematics


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