Portfolio Approaches in Constraint Programming

By Roberto Amadini,
Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna
June 2015


Recent research has shown that the performance of a single, arbitrarily efficient algorithm can be significantly outperformed by using a portfolio of —possibly on-average slower— algorithms. Within the Constraint Programming (CP) context, a portfolio solver can be seen as a particular constraint solver that exploits the synergy between the constituent solvers of its portfolio for predicting which is (or which are) the best solver(s) to run for solving a new, unseen instance. In this thesis we examine the benefits of portfolio solvers in CP. Despite portfolio approaches have been extensively studied for Boolean Satisfiability (SAT) problems, in the more general CP field these techniques have been only marginally studied and used. We conducted this work through the investigation, the analysis and the construction of several portfolio approaches for solving both satisfaction and optimization problems. We focused in particular on sequential approaches, i.e., single-threaded portfolio solvers always running on the same core. We started from a first empirical evaluation on portfolio approaches for solving Constraint Satisfaction Problems (CSPs), and then we improved on it by introducing new data, solvers, features, algorithms, and tools. Afterwards, we addressed the more general Constraint Optimization Problems (COPs) by implementing and testing a number of models for dealing with COP portfolio solvers. Finally, we have come full circle by developing sunny-cp: a sequential CP portfolio solver that turned out to be competitive also in the MiniZinc Challenge, the reference competition for CP solvers.