Smart Initial Basis Selection for Linear Programs
Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 202:9650-9664, 2023.
The simplex method, introduced by Dantzig more than half a century ago, is still to date one of the most efficient methods for solving large-scale linear programming (LP) problems. While the simplex method is known to have the finite termination property under mild assumptions, the number of iterations until optimality largely depends on the choice of initial basis. Existing strategies for selecting an advanced initial basis are mostly rule-based. These rules usually require extensive expert knowledge and empirical study to develop. Yet, many of them fail to exhibit consistent improvement, even for LP problems that arise in a single application scenario. In this paper, we propose a learning-based approach for initial basis selection. We employ graph neural networks as a building block and develop a model that attempts to capture the relationship between LP problems and their optimal bases. In addition, during the inference phase, we supplement the learning-based prediction with linear algebra tricks to ensure the validity of the generated initial basis. We validate the effectiveness of our proposed strategy by extensively testing it with state-of-the-art simplex solvers, including the open-source solver HiGHS and the commercial solver OptVerse. Through these rigorous experiments, we demonstrate that our strategy achieves substantial speedup and consistently outperforms existing rule-based methods. Furthermore, we extend the proposed approach to generating restricted master problems for column generation methods and present encouraging numerical results.