Generic Callback Changes in CPLEX 12.10

Written by: Paul Rubin

Primary Source: OR in an OB World, 01/30/2020

CPLEX 12.10 is out, and there have been a few changes to the new(ish) generic callbacks. Rather than go into them in detail (and likely screw something up), I’ll just point you to the slides for a presentation by Daniel Junglas of IBM at the 2019 INFORMS Annual Meeting.

I’ve written about half a dozen posts about generic callbacks since IBM introduced them (which you can find by typing “generic callback” in the search widget on the blog). A couple of things have been added recently, and I thought I would mention them. The generic callback approach uses a single callback function that can be called from a variety of contexts, including when CPLEX solves a node relaxation (“RELAXATION” context), when if finds a candidate solution (“CANDIDATE” context) and, now, when it is ready to split a node into children (“BRANCHING” context).

The branching context is one of the new features. It brings back most of the functionality of the branch callback in the legacy callback system. Unfortunately, it does not seem to have the ability to attach user information to the child nodes, which was a feature that was occasionally useful in the legacy system. You can get more or less equivalent functionality by creating a data store (array, map, whatever) in your global memory and storing the node information keyed by the unique index number of each child node. The catch is that you are now responsible for memory management (freeing up space when a node is pruned and the associated information is no longer needed), and for dealing with thread synchronization issues.

Another new feature is that you can now inject a heuristic solution (if you have one) from all three of the contexts I mentioned above. CPLEX gives you a variety of options for how it will handle the injected solution: “NoCheck” (CPLEX will trust you that it is feasible); “CheckFeasible” (CPLEX will check feasibility and ignore the solution if it is not feasible); “Propagate” (Daniel’s explanation: CPLEX will “propagate fixed variables and accept if feasible”); and “Solve” (CPLEX will solve a MIP problem with fixed variables and accept the result if feasible). I assume the latter two mean that you provide a partial solution, fixing some variables but not others. (Unfortunately I was unable to make it to Daniel’s talk, so I’m speculating here.)

I’m not sure if those are the only new features, but they are the ones that are most relevant to me. I invite you to read through Daniel’s slides to get a more complete picture, including both the reasons for switching from legacy callbacks to generic callbacks and some of the technical issues in using them.

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I'm an apostate mathematician, retired from a business school after 33 years of teaching mostly (but not exclusively) quantitative methods courses. My academic interests lie in operations research. I also study Tae Kwon Do a bit on the side.

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