Foundations of Computational Mathematics

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 527–566 | Cite as

Random Gradient-Free Minimization of Convex Functions

  • Yurii NesterovEmail author
  • Vladimir Spokoiny


In this paper, we prove new complexity bounds for methods of convex optimization based only on computation of the function value. The search directions of our schemes are normally distributed random Gaussian vectors. It appears that such methods usually need at most n times more iterations than the standard gradient methods, where n is the dimension of the space of variables. This conclusion is true for both nonsmooth and smooth problems. For the latter class, we present also an accelerated scheme with the expected rate of convergence \(O\Big ({n^2 \over k^2}\Big )\), where k is the iteration counter. For stochastic optimization, we propose a zero-order scheme and justify its expected rate of convergence \(O\Big ({n \over k^{1/2}}\Big )\). We give also some bounds for the rate of convergence of the random gradient-free methods to stationary points of nonconvex functions, for both smooth and nonsmooth cases. Our theoretical results are supported by preliminary computational experiments.


Convex optimization Stochastic optimization Derivative-free methods Random methods Complexity bounds 

Mathematics Subject Classification

90C25 0C47 68Q25 



The authors would like to thank two anonymous referees for enormously careful and helpful comments. Pavel Dvurechensky proposed a better proof of inequality (37), which we use in this paper. Research activity of the first author for this paper was partially supported by the grant “Action de recherche concertè ARC 04/09-315” from the “Direction de la recherche scientifique - Communautè française de Belgique,” and RFBR research projects 13-01-12007 ofi_m. The second author was supported by Laboratory of Structural Methods of Data Analysis in Predictive Modeling, MIPT, through RF government grant, ag.11.G34.31.0073.


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Copyright information

© SFoCM 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE)Catholic University of Louvain (UCL)LeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Weierstrass Institute for Applied Analysis and Stochastics (WIAS)Humboldt University of BerlinBerlinGermany

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