SeaPearl: A Constraint Programming Solver guided by Reinforcement Learning

02/18/2021 ∙ by Félix Chalumeau, et al. ∙ 62

The design of efficient and generic algorithms for solving combinatorial optimization problems has been an active field of research for many years. Standard exact solving approaches are based on a clever and complete enumeration of the solution set. A critical and non-trivial design choice with such methods is the branching strategy, directing how the search is performed. The last decade has shown an increasing interest in the design of machine learning-based heuristics to solve combinatorial optimization problems. The goal is to leverage knowledge from historical data to solve similar new instances of a problem. Used alone, such heuristics are only able to provide approximate solutions efficiently, but cannot prove optimality nor bounds on their solution. Recent works have shown that reinforcement learning can be successfully used for driving the search phase of constraint programming (CP) solvers. However, it has also been shown that this hybridization is challenging to build, as standard CP frameworks do not natively include machine learning mechanisms, leading to some sources of inefficiencies. This paper presents the proof of concept for SeaPearl, a new CP solver implemented in Julia, that supports machine learning routines in order to learn branching decisions using reinforcement learning. Support for modeling the learning component is also provided. We illustrate the modeling and solution performance of this new solver on two problems. Although not yet competitive with industrial solvers, SeaPearl aims to provide a flexible and open-source framework in order to facilitate future research in the hybridization of constraint programming and machine learning.

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