Provable submodular minimization using Wolfe's algorithm

Deeparnab Chakrabarty, Prateek Jain, Pravesh Kothari

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Owing to several applications in large scale learning and vision problems, fast submodular function minimization (SFM) has become a critical problem. Theoretically, unconstrained SFM can be performed in polynomial time [10, 11]. However, these algorithms are typically not practical. In 1976, Wolfe [21] proposed an algorithm to find the minimum Euclidean norm point in a polytope, and in 1980, Fujishige [3] showed how Wolfe's algorithm can be used for SFM. For general submodular functions, this Fujishige-Wolfe minimum norm algorithm seems to have the best empirical performance. Despite its good practical performance, very little is known about Wolfe's minimum norm algorithm theoretically. To our knowledge, the only result is an exponential time analysis due to Wolfe [21] himself. In this paper we give a maiden convergence analysis of Wolfe's algorithm. We prove that in t iterations, Wolfe's algorithm returns an O(1/t)-approximate solution to the min-norm point on any polytope. We also prove a robust version of Fujishige's theorem which shows that an O(1/n2)-approximate solution to the min-norm point on the base polytope implies exact submodular minimization. As a corollary, we get the first pseudo-polynomial time guarantee for the Fujishige-Wolfe minimum norm algorithm for unconstrained submodular function minimization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)802-809
Number of pages8
JournalAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
Issue numberJanuary
StatePublished - 2014
Event28th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems 2014, NIPS 2014 - Montreal, Canada
Duration: Dec 8 2014Dec 13 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


Dive into the research topics of 'Provable submodular minimization using Wolfe's algorithm'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this