# Measuring the parallel performance of the Borg MOEA

In most applications, parallel computing is used to improve code efficiency and expand the scope of problems that can be addressed computationally (for background on parallelization, see references listed at the bottom of this post). For the Borg Many Objective Evolutionary Algorithm (MOEA) however, parallelization can also improve the quality and reliability of many objective search by enabling a multi-population search. The multi-population implementation of Borg is known as Multi-Master Borg, details can be found here. To measure the performance of Multi-Master Borg, we need to go beyond basic parallel efficiency (discussed in my last post, here), which measures the efficiency of computation but not the quality of the many objective search. In this post, I’ll discuss how we measure the performance of Multi-Master Borg using two metrics: hypervolume speedup and reliability.

## Hypervolume speedup

In my last post, I discussed traditional parallel efficiency, which measures the improvement in speed and efficiency that can be achieved through parallelization. For many objective search, speed and efficiency of computation are important, but we are more interested in the speed and efficiency with which the algorithm produces high quality solutions. We often use the hypervolume metric to measure the quality of an approximation set as it captures both convergence and diversity (for a thorough explanation of hypervolume, see this post). Using hypervolume as a measure of search quality, we can then evaluate hypervolume speedup, defined as:

Hypervolume speedup = $\frac{T_S^H}{T_P^H}$

where $T_S^H$ is the time it takes the serial version of the MOEA to achieve a given hypervolume threshold, and $T_P^H$ is the time it takes the parallel implementation to reach the same threshold. Figure 1 below, adapted from Hadka and Reed, (2014), shows the hypervolume speedup across different parallel implementations of the Borg MOEA for the five objective NSGA II test problem run on 16,384 processors (in this work the parallel epsilon-NSGA II algorithm is used as a baseline rather than a serial implementation). Results from Figure 1 reveal that the Multi-Master implementations of Borg are able to reach each hypervolume threshold faster than the baseline algorithm and the master-worker implementation. For high hypervolume thresholds, the 16 and 32 Master implementations achieve the hypervolume thresholds 10 times faster than the baseline. Figure 1: Hypervolume speedup for the five objective LRGV test problem across implementations of the Borg MOEA (epsilon NSGA-II, another algorithm) is used as the baseline here). This figure is adapted from Hadka and Reed, (2014).

## Reliability

MOEAs are inherently stochastic algorithms, they are be initialized with random seeds which may speedup or slow down the efficiency of the search process. To ensure high quality Pareto approximate sets, it’s standard practice to run an MOEA across many random seeds and extract the best solutions across all seeds as the final solution set. Reliability is a measure of the probability that each seed will achieve a high quality set of solutions. Algorithms that have higher reliability allow users to run fewer random seeds which saves computational resources and speeds up the search process. Salazar et al., (2017) examined the performance of 17 configurations of Borg on the Lower Susquehanna River Basin (LSRB) for a fixed 10 hour runtime. Figure 2 shows the performance of each configuration across 50 random seeds. A configuration that is able to achieve the best hypervolume across all seeds would be represented as a blue bar that extends to the top of the plot. The algorithmic configurations are shown in the plot to the right. These results show that though configuration D, which has a high core count and low master count, achieves the best overall hypervolume, it does not do so reliably. Configuration H, which has two masters, is able to achieve nearly the same hypervolume, but has a much higher reliability. Configuration L, which has four masters, achieves a lower maximum hypervolume, but has vary little variance across random seeds. Figure 2: Reliability of search adapted from Salazar et al., (2017). Each letter represents a different algorithmic configuration (shown right) for the many objective LSRB problem across 10 hours of runtime. The color represents the probability that each configuration was able to attain a given level of hypervolume across 50 seeds.

These results can be further examined by looking at the quality of search across its runtime. In Figure 3, Salazar et al. (2017) compare the performance of the three algorithmic configurations highlighted above (D, H and L). The hypervolume achieved by the maximum and minimum seeds are shown in the shaded areas, and the median hypervolume is shown with each line. Figure 3 clearly demonstrates how improved reliability can enhance search. Though the Multi-Master implementation is able to perform fewer function evaluations in the 10 hour runtime, it has very low variance across seeds. The Master-worker implementation on the other hand achieves better performance with it’s best seed (it gets lucky), but its median performance never achieves the hypervolume of the two or four master configurations. Figure 3: Runtime hypervolume dynamics for the LSRB problem by Salazar et al., (2017). The reduction in variance in the Multi-Master implementations of Borg demonstrate the benefits of improved reliability.

## Concluding thoughts

The two measures introduced above allow us to quantify the benefits of parallelizing the Multi-Master Borg MOEA. The improvements to search quality not only allow us to reduce the time and resources that we need to expend on many objective search, but may also allow us to discover solutions that would be missed by the serial or Master-Worker implementations of the algorithm. In many objective optimization contexts, this improvement may fundamentally alter our understanding of what is possible in a challenging environmental optimization problems.

## References

Hadka, D., & Reed, P. (2015). Large-scale parallelization of the Borg multiobjective evolutionary algorithm to enhance the management of complex environmental systems. Environmental Modelling & Software, 69, 353-369.

Salazar, J. Z., Reed, P. M., Quinn, J. D., Giuliani, M., & Castelletti, A. (2017). Balancing exploration, uncertainty and computational demands in many objective reservoir optimization. Advances in water resources, 109, 196-210.

# Fitting and Simulating from NHMMs in R

The purpose of this post is to give a workflow that one could follow if your goal is to fit Non-Homogeneous Hidden Markov Models (NHMMs) and to simulate sequences of states. Julie Quinn wrote a series of great posts on fitting Hidden Markov Models (HMMs) here but the goal of this post is to discuss the non-homogeneous counterparts of HMM. NHMMs can be distinguished from the former because they involve non-stationary transition probabilities between states. These dynamic transition probability matrices are conditioned on one or more external covariates that influences transitions between states. One example of the use of NHMMs is to model and simulate precipitation. Precipitation models that simulate without using atmospheric information cannot be expected to perform well on conditions that deviate from those on which the model was fit. Thus using a covariate that shows changes in atmospheric circulation (such as geopotential height), can help capture some of the nonstationarity that a solely precipitation-based model alone could not capture.

I have had a lot of time to work with NHMMs in R; however at the beginning, I found overwhelmingly few examples to work off of, so this post is meant to outline a workflow that I have settled on that you can apply to your own application. First off, there are tons of packages available for HMMs, but very few that handle the dynamic transition matrices of NHMMs. My favorite is depmixS4 found here. This package has all the tools needed to fit your NHMM, but it takes some experimenting to understand the syntax and to piece together the functions to create a full workflow.

First we want to fit a depmix model. In the first line of the code, I am creating a model called modNHMM. The data that I am fitting the NHMM with are the first 9 principal components of geopotential height. It is important that you list these components in this syntax and they should be the column titles of your dataset, which is synoptic.pcs in my case. The number of states is how many states you want to fit your model with. For a precipitation/streamflow application, you could fit a two-state NHMM to represent wet/dry conditions, or if you are trying to identify multiple regimes, you may have more.

library(depmixs4)

modNHMM <- depmix(list(PC1~1,PC2~1,PC3~1, PC4~1, PC5~1, PC6~1, PC7~1, PC8~1,
PC9~1),
nstates = num.states,
family=list(gaussian(),gaussian(),gaussian(),gaussian(),gaussian(),gaussian(),gaussian(),gaussian(),
gaussian()),
ntimes =  nrow(synoptic.pcs),
data = data.frame(synoptic.pcs),transition = ~predictor$PC1+predictor$PC2+predictor$PC3+predictor$PC4)

fit.modNHMM.depmix.paleo.check <- fit(modNHMM)

synoptic.state.assignments<- posterior(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)$state # state sequence using the Viterbi algorithm  Then we choose a distribution for our responses, which I choose to be a Gaussian distribution. The argument, ntimes, refers to the length of our time series, which is the number of rows in our dataset. Next we specify the dataset that contains the PC data and the transition which is dictated by our external covariates. In this case, my covariates are in a dataframe called predictor and each column corresponds to the 4 covariates (which happen to be PCs of a different dataset) that will influence my transitions. Then we fit the model with our prescribed attributes using the fit function. Finally, we want to calculate the Viterbi sequence, which is the most probable path or sequence of states over the period that the model is fit. This step (last line of code) will return a vector of the length of the dataset with each day classified into one of num.states. Now we need to locate the transition probability matrices. We use the following command: fit.modNHMM.depmix.paleo.check@transition If we were fitting an HMM, we would get one transition probability matrix. However, we get an output that looks like this: Transition probability matrix coefficients Now instead of having constant values for transitions, we have equations of the form: Intercept+b1*PC1+b2*PC2+b3*PC3+b4*PC4 where the b values are the coefficient values listed in the table. If were were to look at the first block [], this block dictates transitions from State 1 to the other 5 states. The transitions from the states are as follows: State 1 to State 1: 0+0+0+0+0 (State 1 is used as a reference variable in this case and the probability would be found by subtracting the other probabilities from 1 at the end) State 1 to State 2: -3.11+-0.22*PC1+0.22*PC2+0.014*PC3-0.13*PC4 and so on. You have to remember to divide each value by the total across the row in order to return probabilities. Once you have these symbolic equations for the transition probability matrices, you can create a list of matrices which will allow you to simulate sequences of states for new sets of the PC1, PC2, PC3, PC4 covariates. You can get a sense how you might create n different transition matrices if you have times series of length n of the covariates. Below I am just representing those symbolic equations in code using the getpars function to acquire the coefficients and store the resulting daily matrices in a list called mm. Depending on the number of covariates or states, you will need to adjust the indices accordingly. n=dim(df)[] mm<-matrix(list(), 1,n) for (j in 1:n){ transition_matrix=matrix(, nrow = 5, ncol = 5) for (i in 6:10){ transition_matrix[1,i-5]=getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i]+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+5]*df$PC1[j])+ (getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+10]*df$PC2[j])+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+15]*df$PC3[j])+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+20]*df$PC4[j]) } denominator=sum(exp(transition_matrix[1,])) for (i in 6:10){ transition_matrix[1,i-5]=exp(transition_matrix[1,i-5])/denominator } for (i in 31:35){ transition_matrix[2,i-30]=getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i]+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+5]*df$PC1[j])+ (getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+10]*df$PC2[j])+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+15]*df$PC3[j])+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+20]*df$PC4[j]) } denominator=sum(exp(transition_matrix[2,])) for (i in 31:35){ transition_matrix[2,i-30]=exp(transition_matrix[2,i-30])/denominator } for (i in 56:60){ transition_matrix[3,i-55]=getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i]+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+5]*df$PC1[j])+ (getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+10]*df$PC2[j])+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+15]*df$PC3[j])+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+20]*df$PC4[j]) } denominator=sum(exp(transition_matrix[3,])) for (i in 56:60){ transition_matrix[3,i-55]=exp(transition_matrix[3,i-55])/denominator } for (i in 81:85){ transition_matrix[4,i-80]=getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i]+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+5]*df$PC1[j])+ (getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+10]*df$PC2[j])+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+15]*df$PC3[j])+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+20]*df$PC4[j]) } denominator=sum(exp(transition_matrix[4,])) for (i in 81:85){ transition_matrix[4,i-80]=exp(transition_matrix[4,i-80])/denominator } for (i in 106:110){ transition_matrix[5,i-105]=getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i]+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+5]*df$PC1[j])+ (getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+10]*df$PC2[j])+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+15]*df$PC3[j])+(getpars(fit.modHMMs.depmix.paleo.check)[i+20]*df\$PC4[j])

}
denominator=sum(exp(transition_matrix[5,]))
for (i in 106:110){
transition_matrix[5,i-105]=exp(transition_matrix[5,i-105])/denominator

}
mm[[j]]=transition_matrix

}

Once we have these matrices, we can then simulate state sequences that can result from the chain of transition matrices. For this part, we need to create markov lists with our transition matrices:

library(markovchain)
mcObject <- mclapply(X=1:iter,mc.preschedule=TRUE,mc.cores=1,FUN=function(j){

mcObject.time.varying <- mclapply(X=1:n.sim,mc.preschedule=TRUE,mc.cores=1,FUN=function(t){
tr.prob=as.matrix(mm[[t]])
mcObject.time.varying.out <- new("markovchain", states = c("1","2","3","4","5"),
transitionMatrix = tr.prob, name = paste("McObject",t,sep=""))
return(McObject.time.varying.out)
}
)
mcObject.final <- new("markovchainList",markovchains = mcObject.time.varying, name = "mcObject.nh")
return(

mcObject.final

)

}


Finally we simulate using the following:

simulate.mc <- function(mcObject,num.states,dates.sim,last.month,last.day,n.sim,iter) {

#this function will simulate the Markov chain iter times

#Arguments:
#mcObject = a Markov chain object from the markovchain package
#num.states = the number of states
#date.sim = a time series of dates for the simulation period
#last.month = last month of the season
#last.day = last day of the last month of the season
#iter = the number of iterations

#day and month sequences for the simulation period
days.sim <- as.numeric(format(dates.sim,"%d"))
months.sim <- as.numeric(format(dates.sim,"%m"))
n.sim <- length(dates.sim)  #length of simulation

final.mc.sim <- mclapply(X=1:iter,mc.preschedule=TRUE,mc.cores=1,FUN=function(i){

mc.sim <- as.numeric(rmarkovchain(n=1,object=mcObject[[i]][]))
end.state <- paste(mc.sim[length(mc.sim)])
for (t in 1:n.sim) {
mc.sim <- c(mc.sim,as.numeric(rmarkovchain(n=1,object=mcObject[[i]][[t]],t0=end.state)))
end.state <- paste(mc.sim[length(mc.sim)])
if(months.sim[t]==last.month & days.sim[t]==last.day) {end.state <- paste(sample(1:num.states,size=1))}
}

#here is the final mc simulation
final.mc.sim.iter <- mc.sim[2:(n.sim+1)]
return(final.mc.sim.iter)
}
)
return(final.mc.sim)

}

simulations=matrix(list(), 1,1000)
for (i in 1:1000){

simulations[[i]] <- simulate.mc(mcObject=mcWeather.Regime,num.states=num.states,
dates.sim=dates.sim,last.month=last.month,last.day=last.day,iter=iter)
}

And that’s it! You can simulate for many different iterations (1000 in my case) and you will be returned a large list with your 1000 sequence of states over the simulation period.