Basic Concept of Convex Optimization

KKT condition and Lagrange dual.

Posted by Tianxiang Gao on April 14, 2015

Convext optimization have been widely used in data science area. This blog will cover some basic knowledge about it, such as Lagrange dual and KKT conditions. I will not state the function is whether convex or not, becasue that will confuse people if they don’t have those background.

Lagrange Dual Problem

The standard form of any optimization problem is \begin{equation} max\{f(x):c(x)\geq 0_{m\times 1}\},\label{opt} \end{equation}

where $f(x):\mathbb{R}^n\mapsto \mathbb{R}$ and $c(x):\mathbb{R}^n\mapsto \mathbb{R}^m$.

To easily and clearly derive the lagrange dual problme, I take linear optimization problem as an example. Every linear optimization problem can formulated as

\begin{align} &\underset{x}{\text{max}}& & c^Tx \newline & \text{subject to} & & Ax \leq b \end{align}

where $\,x\in \mathbb{R}^n, c\in \mathbb{R}^n, b\in \mathbb{R}^m, A\in\mathbb{R}^{m\times n}$. This is the primal problem. If this problem is hard to solve, we could solve its lagrange dual problem instead. Let’s derivative its lagrange dual problem.

We drop the constrain $Ax\leq b$ by introducing a multiplier $y \in \mathbb{R}_+^m$ and adding the result to the objective function in terms of penalty. The new objective function is knwon as Lagrange function

\begin{equation} L_p(x, y) = c^Tx + y^T(b-Ax) \end{equation}

Because $y \geq 0$ and $b-Ax\geq 0$, we know that

\begin{equation} L_p(x,y) \geq c^Tx \label{lagrange equation} \end{equation}

Assume $y$ is given, we want to maximize Lagrange function with respective to $x$. Hence, the minimum of this objective function is a function of $y$, which is known as dual function

\begin{align} g(y)&= \underset{x}{\text{max}} \, L_p(x, y)\newline &= \underset{x}{\text{max}} \,c^Tx + y^T(b-Ax)\newline &= \underset{x}{\text{max}} \,(c^T-y^TA)x + y^Tb= \begin{cases} y^Tb & \text{ if } x\ge y^TA=c^T \newline +\infty & \text{ otherwise } \end{cases} \end{align}

Based on \eqref{lagrange equation}, for any feasible solutions $x$ and $y$, $g(y)$ is greater than or equal to the maximum of primal objective function $c^Tx$. So the minimum of $g(y)$ is equal to the maximum of $c^Tx$. We formulate the lagrange dual problem

\begin{align} &\underset{y}{\text{min}}& & g(y)=b^Ty \newline & \text{subject to} & & A^Ty = c\newline & & & y \geq 0 \end{align}

KKT condition

KKT condition stands for Karush-Kuhn-Tucher condition. The KKT condition is that for any optimization problem \eqref{opt}, if $x^*$ is local minimum that satisifes some regularity conditions (see below), there exists a vector $\,\lambda\in \mathbb{R}^m$ such that \begin{align} &\nabla f(x)+\lambda^T \nabla c(x)=0{n\times 1} \newline & c(x) \geq 0{m\times 1}\newline & \lambda \geq 0{m\times 1}\newline & \lambda^Tc(x) = 0{m\times 1} \end{align}

In order to for a minum point $x^{*}$ to satisfy the above KKT conditions, the problem should satisfy some regularity conditions. Since we use linear programming as an example, we only list linearity constrain qualification, that is, $c(x)$ is a set of affine functions. Affine function has formulation $\beta^Tx+\beta_0$.

In linear programming above (2)-(3), KKT condition includes (3),(10),(11), and \begin{equation} y^T(b-A^Tx)=0 \end{equation}

Note that KKT conditions are both sufficient and necessary for optimlity. On anthoer word, for any given optimal solution $x_0$ to linear programming if and only if there exists \lambda_0 that satisfies the KKT conditions. On the otherhand, For general nonlinear programming, KKT conditions are neither sufficient nor necessary for optimality.

Back to lagrange dual problems, we can prove weak duality and strong duality by using KKT conditons.

Theorm of weak duality

If x and y are feasible solutions to $max\{c^Tx:Ax\leq b\}$ and $min\{b^Ty:A^Ty\geq c, y\geq 0\}$, respectively, then $c^Tx \leq b^Ty$.


Since x and y are feasible, we have \begin{equation} 0\leq (b-Ax)^Ty=b^Ty-(Ax)^Ty=b^Ty-y^T Ax, \end{equation} and \begin{equation} 0\leq (A^Ty-c)^Tx=y^TAx-c^Tx. \end{equation} Therefore, $c^Tx\leq y^TAx \leq b^Ty$.

Theorm of Strong duality

If x and y are optimal solutions to $max\{c^Tx:Ax\leq b\}$ and $min\{b^Ty:A^Ty\geq c, y\geq 0\}$, respectively, then $c^Tx = b^Ty$.


Since x and y are optimal, by last KKT condition (15), we have \begin{equation} 0= (b-Ax)^Ty=b^Ty-(Ax)^Ty=b^Ty-y^TAx, \end{equation} and \begin{equation} 0= (A^Ty-c)^Tx=y^TAx-c^Tx. \end{equation} Therefore, $c^Tx= y^TAx= b^Ty$.