Experimental Approach to McCormick Relaxation Source-Code Transformation
Author PSORLab
4 Stars
Updated Last
10 Months Ago
Started In
December 2021


This package is an experimental approach to use source-code transformation to apply McCormick relaxations to symbolic functions for use in deterministic global optimization. While packages like McCormick.jl [1] take set-valued McCormick objects and utilize McCormick relaxation rules to overload standard math operations, SourceCodeMcCormick.jl (SCMC) aims to interpret symbolic expressions, apply generalized McCormick rules, create source code that computes the McCormick relaxations and natural interval extension of the input, and compile the source code into functions that return pointwise values of the natural interval extension and convex/concave relaxations. This functionality is designed to be used for both algebraic and dynamic (in development) systems.

Algebraic Systems

For a given algebraic equation or system of equations, SCMC is designed to provide symbolic transformations that represent the lower/upper bounds and convex/concave relaxations of the provided equation(s). Most notably, SCMC uses this symbolic transformation to generate "evaluation functions" which, for a given expression, return the natural interval extension and convex/concave relaxations of an expression. E.g.:

using SourceCodeMcCormick, Symbolics

@variables x, y
expr = exp(x/y) - (x*y^2)/(y+1)
expr_lo_eval, expr_hi_eval, expr_cv_eval, expr_cc_eval, order = all_evaluators(expr)

Here, the outputs marked _eval are the evaluation functions for the lower bound (lo), upper bound (hi), convex underestimator (cv), and concave overestimator (cc) of the symbolic expression given by expr. The inputs to each of these functions are described by the order vector, which in this case is [x_cc, x_cv, x_hi, x_lo, y_cc, y_cv, y_hi, y_lo], representing the concave/convex relaxations and interval bounds of the variables x and y. E.g., if being used in a branch-and-bound (B&B) scheme, the interval bounds for each variable will be the lower and upper bounds of the B&B node for that variable, and the convex/concave relaxations will take the value where the relaxation of the original expression is desired.

One benefit of using a source code transformation approach such as this over a multiple dispatch approach like McCormick.jl is speed. When McCormick relaxations of functions are evaluated using McCormick.jl, there is overhead associated with finding the correct functions to call for each overloaded math operation. The functions generated by SCMC, however, eliminate this overhead by creating static functions with the correct McCormick rules already applied. While the McCormick.jl approach is flexible in quickly evaluating any new expression you provide, in the SCMC approach, one expression is selected up front, and relaxations and interval extension values are calculated for that expression quickly. For example:

using BenchmarkTools, McCormick

xMC = MC{2, NS}(2.5, Interval(-1.0, 4.0), 1)
yMC = MC{2, NS}(1.5, Interval(0.5, 3.0), 2)

@btime exp(xMC/yMC) - (xMC*yMC^2)/(yMC+1)
# 497.382 ns (7 allocations: 560 bytes)

@btime expr_cv_eval(2.5, 2.5, 4.0, -1.0, 1.5, 1.5, 3.0, 0.5)
# 184.964 ns (1 allocation: 16 bytes)

Note that this is not an entirely fair comparison because McCormick.jl, by using the MC type and multiple dispatch, simultaneously calculates all of the following: natural interval extensions, convex and concave relaxations, and corresponding subgradients.

Another benefit of the SCMC approach is its compatibility with CUDA.jl [2]: SCMC functions are broadcastable over CuArrays. Depending on the GPU, number of evaluations, and complexity of the function, this can dramatically decrease the time to compute the numerical values of interval extensions and relaxations. E.g.:

using CUDA

# Using McCormick.jl
xMC_array = MC{2,NS}.(rand(10000), Interval.(zeros(10000), ones(10000)), ones(Int, 10000))
yMC_array = MC{2,NS}.(rand(10000), Interval.(zeros(10000), ones(10000)), ones(Int, 10000).*2)

@btime @. exp(xMC_array/yMC_array) - (xMC_array*yMC_array^2)/(yMC_array+1)
# 2.365 ms (18 allocations: 703.81 KiB)

# Using SourceCodeMcCormick.jl, broadcast using CPU
xcc = rand(10000)
xcv = copy(xcc)
xhi = ones(10000)
xlo = zeros(10000)

ycc = rand(10000)
ycv = copy(xcv)
yhi = ones(10000)
ylo = zeros(10000)

@btime expr_cv_eval.(xcc, xcv, xhi, xlo, ycc, ycv, yhi, ylo);
# 1.366 ms (20 allocations: 78.84 KiB)

# Using SourceCodeMcCormick.jl and CUDA.jl, broadcast using GPU
xcc_GPU = CuArray(xcc)
xcv_GPU = CuArray(xcv)
xhi_GPU = CuArray(xhi)
xlo_GPU = CuArray(xlo)
ycc_GPU = CuArray(ycc)
ycv_GPU = CuArray(ycv)
yhi_GPU = CuArray(yhi)
ylo_GPU = CuArray(ylo)

@btime CUDA.@sync expr_cv_eval.(xcc_GPU, xcv_GPU, xhi_GPU, xlo_GPU, ycc_GPU, ycv_GPU, yhi_GPU, ylo_GPU);
# 29.800 μs (52 allocations: 3.88 KiB)

Dynamic Systems

(In development) For dynamic systems, SCMC assumes a differential inequalities approach where the relaxations of derivatives are calculated in advance and the resulting (larger) differential equation system, with explicit definitions of the relaxations of derivatives, can be solved. For algebraic systems, the main product of this package is the broadcastable evaluation functions. For dynamic systems, this package follows the same idea as in algebraic systems but stops at the symbolic representations of relaxations. This functionality is designed to work with a ModelingToolkit-type ODESystem with factorable equations [3]--SCMC will take such a system and return a new ODESystem with expanded equations to provide interval extensions and (if desired) McCormick relaxations. E.g.:

using SourceCodeMcCormick, ModelingToolkit
@parameters p[1:2] t
@variables x[1:2](t)
D = Differential(t)

tspan = (0.0, 35.0)
x0 = [1.0; 0.0]
x_dict = Dict(x[i] .=> x0[i] for i in 1:2)
p_start = [0.020; 0.025]
p_dict = Dict(p[i] .=> p_start[i] for i in 1:2)

eqns = [D(x[1]) ~ p[1]+x[1],
        D(x[2]) ~ p[2]+x[2]]

@named syst = ODESystem(eqns, t, x, p, defaults=merge(x_dict, p_dict))
new_syst = apply_transform(McCormickIntervalTransform(), syst)

This takes the original ODE system (syst) with equations:

Differential(t)(x[1](t)) ~ x[1](t) + p[1]
Differential(t)(x[2](t)) ~ x[2](t) + p[2]

and generates a new ODE system (new_syst) with equations:

Differential(t)(x_1_lo(t)) ~ p_1_lo + x_1_lo(t)
Differential(t)(x_1_hi(t)) ~ p_1_hi + x_1_hi(t)
Differential(t)(x_1_cv(t)) ~ p_1_cv + x_1_cv(t)
Differential(t)(x_1_cc(t)) ~ p_1_cc + x_1_cc(t)
Differential(t)(x_2_lo(t)) ~ p_2_lo + x_2_lo(t)
Differential(t)(x_2_hi(t)) ~ p_2_hi + x_2_hi(t)
Differential(t)(x_2_cv(t)) ~ p_2_cv + x_2_cv(t)
Differential(t)(x_2_cc(t)) ~ p_2_cc + x_2_cc(t)

where x_lo < x_cv < x < x_cc < x_hi. Only addition is shown in this example, as other operations can appear very expansive, but the same operations available for algebraic systems are available for dynamic systems as well. As with the algebraic evaluation functions, equations created by SourceCodeMcCormick are GPU-ready--multiple trajectories of the resulting ODE system at different points and with different state/parameter bounds can be solved simultaneously using an EnsembleProblem in the SciML ecosystem, and GPU hardware can be applied for these solves using DiffEqGPU.jl.


SCMC has several limitations, some of which are described here. Ongoing research effort seeks to address several of these.

  • SCMC does not calculate subgradients, which are used in the lower bounding routines of many global optimizers
  • Complicated expressions may cause significant compilation time. This can be manually avoided by combining results together in a user-defined function
  • SCMC is currently compatible with elementary arithmetic operations +, -, *, /, and the univariate intrinsic functions ^2 and exp. More diverse functions will be added in the future
  • Functions created with SCMC may only accept 32 CUDA arrays as inputs, so functions with more than 8 unique variables will need to be split/factored by the user to be accommodated
  • Due to the large number of floating point calculations required to calculate McCormick-based relaxations, it is highly recommended to use double-precision floating point numbers, including for operations on a GPU. Since most GPUs are designed for single-precision floating point operation, forcing double-precision will often result in a significant performance hit. GPUs designed for scientific computing, with a higher proportion of double-precision-capable cores, are recommended for optimal performance with SCMC.
  • Due to the high branching factor of McCormick-based relaxations and the possibility of warp divergence, there will likely be a performance gap between optimizations with variables covering positive-only domains and variables with mixed domains. Additionally, more complicated expressions where the structure of a McCormick relaxation changes more frequently with respect to the bounds on its domain will likely perform worse than problems where the structure of the relaxation is more consistent.


  1. M.E. Wilhelm, R.X. Gottlieb, and M.D. Stuber, PSORLab/McCormick.jl (2020), URL
  2. T. Besard, C. Foket, and B. De Sutter, Effective extensible programming: Unleashing Julia on GPUs, IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems (2018).
  3. Y. Ma, S. Gowda, R. Anantharaman, C. Laughman, V. Shah, C. Rackauckas, ModelingToolkit: A composable graph transformation system for equation-based modeling. arXiv preprint arXiv:2103.05244, 2021. doi: 10.48550/ARXIV.2103.05244.

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