Technical Report ERGO 14-010

Robust block coordinate descent
K. Fountoulakis and R. Tappenden


In this paper we present a novel randomized block coordinate descent method for the minimization of a convex composite objective function. The method uses (approximate) partial second-order (curvature) information, so that the algorithm performance is more robust when applied to highly nonseparable or ill conditioned problems. We call the method Robust Coordinate Descent (RCD). At each iteration of RCD, a block of coordinates is sampled randomly, a quadratic model is formed about that block and the model is minimized approximately/inexactly to determine the search direction. An inexpensive line search is then employed to ensure a monotonic decrease in the objective function and acceptance of large step sizes. We prove global convergence of the RCD algorithm, and we also present several results on the local convergence of RCD for strongly convex functions. Finally, we present numerical results on large-scale problems to demonstrate the practical performance of the method.


Large scale optimization, second-order methods, curvature information, block coordinate descent, nonsmooth problems