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The availability of several CPU cores on current computers enables
parallelization and increases the computational power significantly.
Optimization algorithms have to be adapted to exploit these highly
parallelized systems and evaluate multiple candidate solutions in
each iteration. This issue is especially challenging for expensive
optimization problems, where surrogate models are employed to
reduce the load of objective function evaluations.
This paper compares different approaches for surrogate modelbased
optimization in parallel environments. Additionally, an easy
to use method, which was developed for an industrial project, is
proposed. All described algorithms are tested with a variety of
standard benchmark functions. Furthermore, they are applied to
a real-world engineering problem, the electrostatic precipitator
problem. Expensive computational fluid dynamics simulations are
required to estimate the performance of the precipitator. The task
is to optimize a gas-distribution system so that a desired velocity
distribution is achieved for the gas flow throughout the precipitator.
The vast amount of possible configurations leads to a complex
discrete valued optimization problem. The experiments indicate
that a hybrid approach works best, which proposes candidate solutions
based on different surrogate model-based infill criteria and
evolutionary operators.

Surrogate-assisted optimization has proven to be very successful if applied to industrial problems. The use of a data-driven surrogate model of an objective function during an optimization cycle has many bene ts, such as being cheap to evaluate and further providing both information about the objective landscape and the parameter space. In preliminary work, it was researched how surrogate-assisted optimization can help to optimize the structure of a neural network (NN) controller. In this work, we will focus on how surrogates can help to improve the direct learning process of a transparent feed-forward neural network controller. As an initial case study we will consider a manageable real-world control task: the elevator supervisory group problem (ESGC) using a simplified simulation model. We use this model as a benchmark which should indicate the applicability and performance of surrogate-assisted optimization to this kind of tasks. While the optimization process itself is in this case not onsidered expensive, the results show that surrogate-assisted optimization is capable of outperforming metaheuristic optimization methods for a low number of evaluations. Further the surrogate can be used for signi cance analysis of the inputs and weighted connections to further exploit problem information.

We propose a hybridization approach called Regularized-Surrogate- Optimization (RSO) aimed at overcoming difficulties related to high- dimensionality. It combines standard Kriging-based SMBO with regularization techniques. The employed regularization methods use the least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO). An extensive study is performed on a set of artificial test functions and two real-world applications: the electrostatic precipitator problem and a multilayered composite design problem. Experiments reveal that RSO requires significantly less time than Kriging to obtain comparable results. The pros and cons of the RSO approach are discussed and recommendations for practitioners are presented.

Surrogate-based optimization relies on so-called infill criteria (acquisition functions) to decide which point to evaluate next. When Kriging is used as the surrogate model of choice (also called Bayesian optimization), one of the most frequently chosen criteria is expected improvement. We argue that the popularity of expected improvement largely relies on its theoretical properties rather than empirically validated performance. Few results from the literature show evidence, that under certain conditions, expected improvement may perform worse than something as simple as the predicted value of the surrogate model. We benchmark both infill criteria in an extensive empirical study on the ‘BBOB’ function set. This investigation includes a detailed study of the impact of problem dimensionality on algorithm performance. The results support the hypothesis that exploration loses importance with increasing problem dimensionality. A statistical analysis reveals that the purely exploitative search with the predicted value criterion performs better on most problems of five or higher dimensions. Possible reasons for these results are discussed. In addition, we give an in-depth guide for choosing the infill criteria based on prior knowledge about the problem at hand, its dimensionality, and the available budget.

Real-world problems such as computational fluid dynamics simulations and finite element analyses are computationally expensive. A standard approach to mitigating the high computational expense is Surrogate-Based Optimization (SBO). Yet, due to the high-dimensionality of many simulation problems, SBO is not directly applicable or not efficient. Reducing the dimensionality of the search space is one method to overcome this limitation. In addition to the applicability of SBO, dimensionality reduction enables easier data handling and improved data and model interpretability. Regularization is considered as one state-of-the-art technique for dimensionality reduction. We propose a hybridization approach called Regularized-Surrogate-Optimization (RSO) aimed at overcoming difficulties related to high-dimensionality. It couples standard Kriging-based SBO with regularization techniques. The employed regularization methods are based on three adaptations of the least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO). In addition, tree-based methods are analyzed as an alternative variable selection method. An extensive study is performed on a set of artificial test functions and two real-world applications: the electrostatic precipitator problem and a multilayered composite design problem. Experiments reveal that RSO requires significantly less time than standard SBO to obtain comparable results. The pros and cons of the RSO approach are discussed, and recommendations for practitioners are presented.

Many black-box optimization problems rely on simulations to evaluate the quality of candidate solutions. These evaluations can be computationally expensive and very time-consuming. We present and approach to mitigate this problem by taking into consideration two factors: The number of evaluations and the execution time. We aim to keep the number of evaluations low by using Bayesian optimization (BO) – known to be sample efficient– and to reduce wall-clock times by executing parallel evaluations. Four parallelization methods using BO as optimizer are compared against the inherently parallel CMA-ES. Each method is evaluated on all the 24 objective functions of the Black-Box-Optimization-Benchmarking test suite in their 20-dimensional versions. The results show that parallelized BO outperforms the state-of-the-art CMA-ES on most of the test functions, also on higher dimensions.

An important class of black-box optimization problems relies on using simulations to assess the quality of a given candidate solution. Solving such problems can be computationally expensive because each simulation is very time-consuming. We present an approach to mitigate this problem by distinguishing two factors of computational cost: the number of trials and the time needed to execute the trials. Our approach tries to keep down the number of trials by using Bayesian optimization (BO) –known to be sample efficient– and reducing wall-clock times by parallel execution of trials. We compare the performance of four parallelization methods and two model-free alternatives. Each method is evaluated on all 24 objective functions of the Black-Box-Optimization- Benchmarking (BBOB) test suite in their five, ten, and 20-dimensional versions. Additionally, their performance is investigated on six test cases in robot learning. The results show that parallelized BO outperforms the state-of-the-art CMA-ES on the BBOB test functions, especially for higher dimensions. On the robot learning tasks, the differences are less clear, but the data do support parallelized BO as the ‘best guess’, winning on some cases and never losing.

Benchmark experiments are required to test, compare, tune, and understand optimization algorithms. Ideally, benchmark problems closely reflect real-world problem behavior. Yet, real-world problems are not always readily available for benchmarking. For example, evaluation costs may be too high, or resources are unavailable (e.g., software or equipment). As a solution, data from previous evaluations can be used to train surrogate models which are then used for benchmarking. The goal is to generate test functions on which the performance of an algorithm is similar to that on the real-world objective function. However, predictions from data-driven models tend to be smoother than the ground-truth from which the training data is derived. This is especially problematic when the training data becomes sparse. The resulting benchmarks may not reflect the landscape features of the ground-truth, are too easy, and may lead to biased conclusions.
To resolve this, we use simulation of Gaussian processes instead of estimation (or prediction). This retains the covariance properties estimated during model training. While previous research suggested a decomposition-based approach for a small-scale, discrete problem, we show that the spectral simulation method enables simulation for continuous optimization problems. In a set of experiments with an artificial ground-truth, we demonstrate that this yields more accurate benchmarks than simply predicting with the Gaussian process model.