Making Gradient Descent Optimal for Strongly Convex Stochastic Optimization
published: Jan. 25, 2012, recorded: December 2011, views: 4227
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Stochastic gradient descent (SGD) is a simple and popular method to solve stochastic optimization problems which arise in machine learning. For strongly convex problems, its convergence rate was known to be O(log(T)/T), by running SGD for T iterations and returning the average point. However, recent results showed that using a different algorithm, one can get an optimal O(1/T) rate. This might lead one to believe that standard SGD is suboptimal, and maybe should even be replaced as a method of choice. In this paper, we investigate the optimality of SGD in a stochastic setting. We show that for smooth problems, the algorithm attains the optimal O(1/T) rate. However, for non-smooth problems, the convergence rate with averaging might really be (log(T)/T), and this is not just an artifact of the analysis. On the flip side, we show that a simple modification of the averaging step suffices to recover the O(1/T) rate, and no other change of the algorithm is necessary. We also present experimental results which support our findings, and point out open problems.
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