Stochastic quasi-gradient methods: variance reduction via Jacobian sketching

Robert M. Gower, Peter Richtarik, Francis Bach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


We develop a new family of variance reduced stochastic gradient descent methods for minimizing the average of a very large number of smooth functions. Our method—JacSketch—is motivated by novel developments in randomized numerical linear algebra, and operates by maintaining a stochastic estimate of a Jacobian matrix composed of the gradients of individual functions. In each iteration, JacSketch efficiently updates the Jacobian matrix by first obtaining a random linear measurement of the true Jacobian through (cheap) sketching, and then projecting the previous estimate onto the solution space of a linear matrix equation whose solutions are consistent with the measurement. The Jacobian estimate is then used to compute a variance-reduced unbiased estimator of the gradient. Our strategy is analogous to the way quasi-Newton methods maintain an estimate of the Hessian, and hence our method can be seen as a stochastic quasi-gradient method. Our method can also be seen as stochastic gradient descent applied to a controlled stochastic optimization reformulation of the original problem, where the control comes from the Jacobian estimates. We prove that for smooth and strongly convex functions, JacSketch converges linearly with a meaningful rate dictated by a single convergence theorem which applies to general sketches. We also provide a refined convergence theorem which applies to a smaller class of sketches, featuring a novel proof technique based on a stochastic Lyapunov function. This enables us to obtain sharper complexity results for variants of JacSketch with importance sampling. By specializing our general approach to specific sketching strategies, JacSketch reduces to the celebrated stochastic average gradient (SAGA) method, and its several existing and many new minibatch, reduced memory, and importance sampling variants. Our rate for SAGA with importance sampling is the current best-known rate for this method, resolving a conjecture by Schmidt et al. (Proceedings of the eighteenth international conference on artificial intelligence and statistics, AISTATS 2015, San Diego, California, 2015). The rates we obtain for minibatch SAGA are also superior to existing rates and are sufficiently tight as to show a decrease in total complexity as the minibatch size increases. Moreover, we obtain the first minibatch SAGA method with importance sampling.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMathematical Programming
StatePublished - May 12 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: Funding was provided by Fondation de Sciences Mathématiques de Paris, European Research Council (Grant No. ERC SEQUOIA), LabEx LMH (Grant No. ANR-11-LABX-0056-LMH).


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