Nonsmooth optimization using Taylor-like models: error bounds, convergence, and termination criteria


We consider optimization algorithms that successively minimize simple Taylor-like models of the objective function. Methods of Gauss–Newton type for minimizing the composition of a convex function and a smooth map are common examples. Our main result is an explicit relationship between the step-size of any such algorithm and the slope of the function at a nearby point. Consequently, we (1) show that the step-sizes can be reliably used to terminate the algorithm, (2) prove that as long as the step-sizes tend to zero, every limit point of the iterates is stationary, and (3) show that conditions, akin to classical quadratic growth, imply that the step-sizes linearly bound the distance of the iterates to the solution set. The latter so-called error bound property is typically used to establish linear (or faster) convergence guarantees. Analogous results hold when the step-size is replaced by the square root of the decrease in the model’s value. We complete the paper with extensions to when the models are minimized only inexactly.

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  1. 1.

    Since the first version of this work [22], a number of new algorithms were developed building on our viewpoint. For example [16] analyze stochastic subgradient methods, [35, 54] consider algorithms for adversarial learning and saddle-point problems, while [49] discuss generic line-search procedures using Taylor-like models built from Bregman divergences.

  2. 2.

    One such univariate example is \(\min _x f(x)=|\frac{1}{2}x^2+x|\). The prox-linear algorithm for convex composite minimization [23, Algorithm 5.1] initiated to the right of the origin—a minimizer of f—will generate a sequence \(x_k\rightarrow 0\) with \(|f'(x_k)|\rightarrow 1\).

  3. 3.

    By stationary, we mean that zero is a limiting subgradient of the function at the point.


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We thank the two anonymous referees and the Associate Editor for their insightful comments, which have improved the exposition of this work.

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Correspondence to D. Drusvyatskiy.

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Research of Drusvyatskiy was partially supported by the AFOSR YIP award FA9550-15-1-0237. Research of Lewis was supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant DMS-1208338. Research of all three authors was supported in part by by the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation Grant 2014241.

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Drusvyatskiy, D., Ioffe, A.D. & Lewis, A.S. Nonsmooth optimization using Taylor-like models: error bounds, convergence, and termination criteria. Math. Program. 185, 357–383 (2021).

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  • Taylor-like model
  • Error-bound
  • Slope
  • Subregularity
  • Kurdyka–Łojasiewicz inequality
  • Ekeland’s principle

Mathematics Subject Classification

  • 65K05
  • 90C30
  • 49M37
  • 65K10