Factorization-free operators

All methods are factorization-free, which means that you only need to provide operator-vector products.

The A or B input arguments of Krylov.jl solvers can be any object that represents a linear operator. That object must implement mul!, for multiplication with a vector, size() and eltype(). For certain methods it must also implement adjoint().

Some methods only require A * v products, whereas other ones also require A' * u products. In the latter case, adjoint(A) must also be implemented.

A * vA * v and A' * u

GPMR is the only method that requires A * v and B * w products.

Preconditioners M, N, C, D, E or F can be also linear operators and must implement mul! or ldiv!.

We strongly recommend LinearOperators.jl to model matrix-free operators, but other packages such as LinearMaps.jl, DiffEqOperators.jl or your own operator can be used as well.

With LinearOperators.jl, operators are defined as

A = LinearOperator(type, nrows, ncols, symmetric, hermitian, prod, tprod, ctprod)


  • type is the operator element type;
  • nrow and ncol are its dimensions;
  • symmetric and hermitian should be set to true or false;
  • prod(y, v), tprod(y, w) and ctprod(u, w) are called when writing mul!(y, A, v), mul!(y, tranpose(A), w), and mul!(y, A', u), respectively.

See the tutorial and the detailed documentation for more informations on LinearOperators.jl.


In the field of nonlinear optimization, finding critical points of a continuous function frequently involves linear systems with a Hessian or Jacobian as coefficient. Materializing such operators as matrices is expensive in terms of operations and memory consumption and is unreasonable for high-dimensional problems. However, it is often possible to implement efficient Hessian-vector and Jacobian-vector products, for example with the help of automatic differentiation tools, and used within Krylov solvers. We now illustrate variants with explicit matrices and with matrix-free operators for two well-known optimization methods.

Example 1: Newton's Method for convex optimization

At each iteration of Newton's method applied to a $\mathcal{C}^2$ strictly convex function $f : \mathbb{R}^n \rightarrow \mathbb{R}$, a descent direction direction is determined by minimizing the quadratic Taylor model of $f$:

\[\min_{d \in \mathbb{R}^n}~~f(x_k) + \nabla f(x_k)^T d + \tfrac{1}{2}~d^T \nabla^2 f(x_k) d\]

which is equivalent to solving the symmetric and positive-definite system

\[\nabla^2 f(x_k) d = -\nabla f(x_k).\]

The system above can be solved with the conjugate gradient method as follows, using the explicit Hessian:

using ForwardDiff, Krylov

xk = -ones(4)

f(x) = (x[1] - 1)^2 + (x[2] - 2)^2 + (x[3] - 3)^2 + (x[4] - 4)^2

g(x) = ForwardDiff.gradient(f, x)

H(x) = ForwardDiff.hessian(f, x)

d, stats = cg(H(xk), -g(xk))

The explicit Hessian can be replaced by a linear operator that only computes Hessian-vector products:

using ForwardDiff, LinearOperators, Krylov

xk = -ones(4)

f(x) = (x[1] - 1)^2 + (x[2] - 2)^2 + (x[3] - 3)^2 + (x[4] - 4)^2

g(x) = ForwardDiff.gradient(f, x)

H(y, v) = ForwardDiff.derivative!(y, t -> g(xk + t * v), 0)
opH = LinearOperator(Float64, 4, 4, true, true, (y, v) -> H(y, v))

cg(opH, -g(xk))
([2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0], Simple stats
 niter: 1
 solved: true
 inconsistent: false
 residuals: []
 Aresiduals: []
 κ₂(A): []
 status: solution good enough given atol and rtol

Example 2: The Gauss-Newton Method for Nonlinear Least Squares

At each iteration of the Gauss-Newton method applied to a nonlinear least-squares objective $f(x) = \tfrac{1}{2}\| F(x)\|^2$ where $F : \mathbb{R}^n \rightarrow \mathbb{R}^m$ is $\mathcal{C}^1$, we solve the subproblem:

\[\min_{d \in \mathbb{R}^n}~~\tfrac{1}{2}~\|J(x_k) d + F(x_k)\|^2,\]

where $J(x)$ is the Jacobian of $F$ at $x$.

An appropriate iterative method to solve the above linear least-squares problems is LSMR. We could pass the explicit Jacobian to LSMR as follows:

using ForwardDiff, Krylov

xk = ones(2)

F(x) = [x[1]^4 - 3; exp(x[2]) - 2; log(x[1]) - x[2]^2]

J(x) = ForwardDiff.jacobian(F, x)

d, stats = lsmr(J(xk), -F(xk))

However, the explicit Jacobian can be replaced by a linear operator that only computes Jacobian-vector and transposed Jacobian-vector products:

using LinearAlgebra, ForwardDiff, LinearOperators, Krylov

xk = ones(2)

F(x) = [x[1]^4 - 3; exp(x[2]) - 2; log(x[1]) - x[2]^2]

J(y, v) = ForwardDiff.derivative!(y, t -> F(xk + t * v), 0)
Jᵀ(y, u) = ForwardDiff.gradient!(y, x -> dot(F(x), u), xk)
opJ = LinearOperator(Float64, 3, 2, false, false, (y, v) -> J(y, v),
                                                  (y, w) -> Jᵀ(y, w),
                                                  (y, u) -> Jᵀ(y, u))

lsmr(opJ, -F(xk))
([0.49889007728348445, -0.2594343430903828], Lsmr stats
 niter: 2
 solved: true
 inconsistent: true
 residuals: []
 Aresiduals: []
 residual: 0.022490204087080454
 Aresidual: 1.9837017206339416e-15
 κ₂(A): 1.2777264193293685
 ‖A‖F: 5.328138145631235
 xNorm: 0.5623144027914095
 status: found approximate minimum least-squares solution

Note that preconditioners can be also implemented as abstract operators. For instance, we could compute the Cholesky factorization of $M$ and $N$ and create linear operators that perform the forward and backsolves.

Krylov methods combined with factorization free operators allow to reduce computation time and memory requirements considerably by avoiding building and storing the system matrix. In the field of partial differential equations, the implementation of high-performance factorization free operators and assembly free preconditioning is a subject of active research.