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How Solvers Compute in Parallel

Parallel Processing Types in Global Optimization Toolbox

Parallel processing is an attractive way to speed optimization algorithms. To use parallel processing, you must have a Parallel Computing Toolbox™ license, and have a parallel worker pool (parpool). For more information, see How to Use Parallel Processing in Global Optimization Toolbox.

Global Optimization Toolbox solvers use parallel computing in various ways.

SolverParallel?Parallel Characteristics

GlobalSearch

×

No parallel functionality. However, fmincon can use parallel gradient estimation when run in GlobalSearch. See Using Parallel Computing in Optimization Toolbox.

MultiStart

Start points distributed to multiple processors. From these points, local solvers run to completion. For more details, see MultiStart and How to Use Parallel Processing in Global Optimization Toolbox.
For fmincon, no parallel gradient estimation with parallel MultiStart.

ga, gamultiobj

Population evaluated in parallel, which occurs once per iteration. For more details, see Genetic Algorithm and How to Use Parallel Processing in Global Optimization Toolbox.
No vectorization of fitness or constraint functions.

particleswarm

Population evaluated in parallel, which occurs once per iteration. For more details, see Particle Swarm and How to Use Parallel Processing in Global Optimization Toolbox.
No vectorization of objective or constraint functions.

patternsearch, paretosearch

Poll points evaluated in parallel, which occurs once per iteration. For more details, see Pattern Search and How to Use Parallel Processing in Global Optimization Toolbox.
No vectorization of objective or constraint functions.

simulannealbnd

×

No parallel functionality. However, simulannealbnd can use a hybrid function that runs in parallel. See Simulated Annealing.

surrogateopt

Search points evaluated in parallel.
No vectorization of objective or constraint functions.

In addition, several solvers have hybrid functions that run after they finish. Some hybrid functions can run in parallel. Also, most patternsearch search methods can run in parallel. For more information, see Parallel Search Functions or Hybrid Functions.

How Toolbox Functions Distribute Processes

parfor Characteristics and Caveats

No Nested parfor Loops.  Most solvers employ the Parallel Computing Toolbox parfor (Parallel Computing Toolbox) function to perform parallel computations. Two solvers, surrogateopt and paretosearch, use parfeval (Parallel Computing Toolbox) instead.

Note

parfor does not work in parallel when called from within another parfor loop.

Note

The documentation recommends not to use parfor or parfeval when calling Simulink®; see Using sim function within parfor (Simulink). Therefore, you might encounter issues when optimizing a Simulink simulation in parallel using a solver's built-in parallel functionality.

Suppose, for example, your objective function userfcn calls parfor, and you want to call fmincon using MultiStart and parallel processing. Suppose also that the conditions for parallel gradient evaluation of fmincon are satisfied, as given in Parallel Optimization Functionality. The figure When parfor Runs In Parallel shows three cases:

  1. The outermost loop is parallel MultiStart. Only that loop runs in parallel.

  2. The outermost parfor loop is in fmincon. Only fmincon runs in parallel.

  3. The outermost parfor loop is in userfcn. In this case, userfcn can use parfor in parallel.

When parfor Runs In Parallel

Parallel Random Numbers Are Not Reproducible.  Random number sequences in MATLAB® are pseudorandom, determined from a seed, or an initial setting. Parallel computations use seeds that are not necessarily controllable or reproducible. For example, each instance of MATLAB has a default global setting that determines the current seed for random sequences.

For patternsearch, if you select MADS as a poll or search method, parallel pattern search does not have reproducible runs. If you select the genetic algorithm or Latin hypercube as search methods, parallel pattern search does not have reproducible runs.

For ga and gamultiobj, parallel population generation gives nonreproducible results.

MultiStart is different. You can have reproducible runs from parallel MultiStart. Runs are reproducible because MultiStart generates pseudorandom start points locally, and then distributes the start points to parallel processors. Therefore, the parallel processors do not use random numbers. For more details, see Parallel Processing and Random Number Streams.

Limitations and Performance Considerations.  More caveats related to parfor appear in Parallel for-Loops (parfor) (Parallel Computing Toolbox).

For information on factors that affect the speed of parallel computations, and factors that affect the results of parallel computations, see Improving Performance with Parallel Computing. The same considerations apply to parallel computing with Global Optimization Toolbox functions.

MultiStart

MultiStart can automatically distribute a problem and start points to multiple processes or processors. The problems run independently, and MultiStart combines the distinct local minima into a vector of GlobalOptimSolution objects. MultiStart uses parallel computing when you:

  • Have a license for Parallel Computing Toolbox software.

  • Enable parallel computing with parpool, a Parallel Computing Toolbox function.

  • Set the UseParallel property to true in the MultiStart object:

    ms = MultiStart('UseParallel',true);

When these conditions hold, MultiStart distributes a problem and start points to processes or processors one at a time. The algorithm halts when it reaches a stopping condition or runs out of start points to distribute. If the MultiStart Display property is 'iter', then MultiStart displays:

Running the local solvers in parallel.

For an example of parallel MultiStart, see Parallel MultiStart.

Implementation Issues in Parallel MultiStart.  fmincon cannot estimate gradients in parallel when used with parallel MultiStart. This lack of parallel gradient estimation is due to the limitation of parfor described in No Nested parfor Loops.

fmincon can take longer to estimate gradients in parallel rather than in serial. In this case, using MultiStart with parallel gradient estimation in fmincon amplifies the slowdown. For example, suppose the ms MultiStart object has UseParallel set to false. Suppose fmincon takes 1 s longer to solve problem with problem.options.UseParallel set to true. Then run(ms,problem,200) takes 200 s longer than the same run with problem.options.UseParallel set to false

Note

When executing serially, parfor loops run slower than for loops. Therefore, for best performance, set your local solver UseParallel option to false when the MultiStart UseParallel property is true.

Note

Even when running in parallel, a solver occasionally calls the objective and nonlinear constraint functions serially on the host machine. Therefore, ensure that your functions have no assumptions about whether they are evaluated in serial and parallel.

GlobalSearch

GlobalSearch does not distribute a problem and start points to multiple processes or processors. However, when GlobalSearch runs the fmincon local solver, fmincon can estimate gradients by parallel finite differences. fmincon uses parallel computing when you:

  • Have a license for Parallel Computing Toolbox software.

  • Enable parallel computing with parpool, a Parallel Computing Toolbox function.

  • Set the UseParallel option to true with optimoptions. Set this option in the problem structure:

    opts = optimoptions(@fmincon,'UseParallel',true,'Algorithm','sqp');
    problem = createOptimProblem('fmincon','objective',@myobj,...
        'x0',startpt,'options',opts);

For more details, see Using Parallel Computing in Optimization Toolbox.

Pattern Search

patternsearch can automatically distribute the evaluation of objective and constraint functions associated with the points in a pattern to multiple processes or processors. patternsearch uses parallel computing when you:

  • Have a license for Parallel Computing Toolbox software.

  • Enable parallel computing with parpool, a Parallel Computing Toolbox function.

  • Set the following options using optimoptions:

    • UseCompletePoll is true.

    • UseVectorized is false (default).

    • UseParallel is true.

When these conditions hold, the solver computes the objective function and constraint values of the pattern search in parallel during a poll. Furthermore, patternsearch overrides the setting of the Cache option, and uses the default 'off' setting.

Beginning in R2019a, when you set the UseParallel option to true, patternsearch internally overrides the UseCompletePoll setting to true so it polls in parallel.

Note

Even when running in parallel, patternsearch occasionally calls the objective and nonlinear constraint functions serially on the host machine. Therefore, ensure that your functions have no assumptions about whether they are evaluated in serial or parallel.

Parallel Search Function.  patternsearch can optionally call a search function at each iteration. The search is parallel when you:

  • Set UseCompleteSearch to true.

  • Do not set the search method to @searchneldermead or custom.

  • Set the search method to a patternsearch poll method or Latin hypercube search, and set UseParallel to true.

  • Or, if you set the search method to ga, create a search method option with UseParallel set to true.

Implementation Issues in Parallel Pattern Search.  The limitations on patternsearch options, listed in Pattern Search, arise partly from the limitations of parfor, and partly from the nature of parallel processing:

  • Cache is overridden to be 'off'patternsearch implements Cache as a persistent variable. parfor does not handle persistent variables, because the variable could have different settings at different processors.

  • UseCompletePoll is trueUseCompletePoll determines whether a poll stops as soon as patternsearch finds a better point. When searching in parallel, parfor schedules all evaluations simultaneously, and patternsearch continues after all evaluations complete. patternsearch cannot halt evaluations after they start.

    Beginning in R2019a, when you set the UseParallel option to true, patternsearch internally overrides the UseCompletePoll setting to true so it polls in parallel.

  • UseVectorized is falseUseVectorized determines whether patternsearch evaluates all points in a pattern with one function call in a vectorized fashion. If UseVectorized is true, patternsearch does not distribute the evaluation of the function, so does not use parfor.

Genetic Algorithm

ga and gamultiobj can automatically distribute the evaluation of objective and nonlinear constraint functions associated with a population to multiple processors. ga uses parallel computing when you:

  • Have a license for Parallel Computing Toolbox software.

  • Enable parallel computing with parpool, a Parallel Computing Toolbox function.

  • Set the following options using optimoptions:

    • UseVectorized is false (default).

    • UseParallel is true.

When these conditions hold, ga computes the objective function and nonlinear constraint values of the individuals in a population in parallel.

Note

Even when running in parallel, ga occasionally calls the fitness and nonlinear constraint functions serially on the host machine. Therefore, ensure that your functions have no assumptions about whether they are evaluated in serial or parallel.

Implementation Issues in Parallel Genetic Algorithm.  The limitations on options, listed in Genetic Algorithm, arise partly from limitations of parfor, and partly from the nature of parallel processing:

  • UseVectorized is falseUseVectorized determines whether ga evaluates an entire population with one function call in a vectorized fashion. If UseVectorized is true, ga does not distribute the evaluation of the function, so does not use parfor.

ga can have a hybrid function that runs after it finishes; see Hybrid Scheme in the Genetic Algorithm. If you want the hybrid function to take advantage of parallel computation, set its options separately so that UseParallel is true. If the hybrid function is patternsearch, set UseCompletePoll to true so that patternsearch runs in parallel.

If the hybrid function is fmincon, set the following options with optimoptions to have parallel gradient estimation:

  • GradObj must not be 'on' — it can be 'off' or [].

  • Or, if there is a nonlinear constraint function, GradConstr must not be 'on' — it can be 'off' or [].

To find out how to write options for the hybrid function, see Parallel Hybrid Functions.

Parallel Computing with gamultiobj

Parallel computing with gamultiobj works almost the same as with ga. For detailed information, see Genetic Algorithm.

The difference between parallel computing with gamultiobj and ga has to do with the hybrid function. gamultiobj allows only one hybrid function, fgoalattain. This function optionally runs after gamultiobj finishes its run. Each individual in the calculated Pareto frontier, that is, the final population found by gamultiobj, becomes the starting point for an optimization using fgoalattain. These optimizations run in parallel. The number of processors performing these optimizations is the smaller of the number of individuals and the size of your parpool.

For fgoalattain to run in parallel, set its options correctly:

fgoalopts = optimoptions(@fgoalattain,'UseParallel',true)
gaoptions = optimoptions('ga','HybridFcn',{@fgoalattain,fgoalopts});
Run gamultiobj with gaoptions, and fgoalattain runs in parallel. For more information about setting the hybrid function, see Hybrid Function Options.

gamultiobj calls fgoalattain using a parfor loop, so fgoalattain does not estimate gradients in parallel when used as a hybrid function with gamultiobj. For more information, see No Nested parfor Loops.

Particle Swarm

particleswarm can automatically distribute the evaluation of the objective function associated with a population to multiple processors. particleswarm uses parallel computing when you:

  • Have a license for Parallel Computing Toolbox software.

  • Enable parallel computing with parpool, a Parallel Computing Toolbox function.

  • Set the following options using optimoptions:

    • UseVectorized is false (default).

    • UseParallel is true.

When these conditions hold, particleswarm computes the objective function of the particles in a population in parallel.

Note

Even when running in parallel, particleswarm occasionally calls the objective function serially on the host machine. Therefore, ensure that your objective function has no assumptions about whether it is evaluated in serial or parallel.

Implementation Issues in Parallel Particle Swarm Optimization.  The limitations on options, listed in Particle Swarm, arise partly from limitations of parfor, and partly from the nature of parallel processing:

  • UseVectorized is falseUseVectorized determines whether particleswarm evaluates an entire population with one function call in a vectorized fashion. If UseVectorized is true, particleswarm does not distribute the evaluation of the function, so does not use parfor.

particleswarm can have a hybrid function that runs after it finishes; see Hybrid Scheme in the Genetic Algorithm. If you want the hybrid function to take advantage of parallel computation, set its options separately so that UseParallel is true. If the hybrid function is patternsearch, set UseCompletePoll to true so that patternsearch runs in parallel.

If the hybrid function is fmincon, set the GradObj option to 'off' or [] with optimoptions to have parallel gradient estimation.

To find out how to write options for the hybrid function, see Parallel Hybrid Functions.

Simulated Annealing

simulannealbnd does not run in parallel automatically. However, it can call hybrid functions that take advantage of parallel computing. To find out how to write options for the hybrid function, see Parallel Hybrid Functions.

Pareto Search

paretosearch can automatically distribute the evaluation of the objective function associated with a population to multiple processors. paretosearch uses parallel computing when you:

  • Have a license for Parallel Computing Toolbox software.

  • Enable parallel computing with parpool, a Parallel Computing Toolbox function.

  • Set the following option using optimoptions:

    • UseParallel is true.

When these conditions hold, paretosearch computes the objective function of the particles in a population in parallel.

Note

Even when running in parallel, paretosearch occasionally calls the objective function serially on the host machine. Therefore, ensure that your objective function has no assumptions about whether it is evaluated in serial or parallel.

For algorithmic details, see Modifications for Parallel Computation and Vectorized Function Evaluation.

Surrogate Optimization

surrogateopt can automatically distribute the evaluation of the objective function associated with a population to multiple processors. surrogateopt uses parallel computing when you:

  • Have a license for Parallel Computing Toolbox software.

  • Enable parallel computing with parpool, a Parallel Computing Toolbox function.

  • Set the following option using optimoptions:

    • UseParallel is true.

When these conditions hold, surrogateopt computes the objective function of the particles in a population in parallel.

Note

Even when running in parallel, surrogateopt occasionally calls the objective function serially on the host machine. Therefore, ensure that your objective function has no assumptions about whether it is evaluated in serial or parallel.

For algorithmic details, see Parallel surrogateopt Algorithm.

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