Implementing a constraint bridge

This guide outlines the basic steps to create a new bridge from a constraint expressed in the formalism Function-in-Set.


First, decide on the set you want to bridge. Then, study its properties: the most important one is whether the set is scalar or vector, which impacts the dimensionality of the functions that can be used with the set.

  • A scalar function only has one dimension. MOI defines three types of scalar functions: a variable (VariableIndex), an affine function (ScalarAffineFunction), or a quadratic function (ScalarQuadraticFunction).
  • A vector function has several dimensions (at least one). MOI defines three types of vector functions: several variables (VectorOfVariables), an affine function (VectorAffineFunction), or a quadratic function (VectorQuadraticFunction). The main difference with scalar functions is that the order of dimensions can be very important: for instance, in an indicator constraint (Indicator), the first dimension indicates whether the constraint about the second dimension is active.

To explain how to implement a bridge, we present the example of Bridges.Constraint.FlipSignBridge. This bridge maps <= (LessThan) constraints to >= (GreaterThan) constraints. This corresponds to reversing the sign of the inequality. We focus on scalar affine functions (we disregard the cases of a single variable or of quadratic functions). This example is a simplified version of the code included in MOI.

Four mandatory parts in a constraint bridge

The first part of a constraint bridge is a new concrete subtype of Bridges.Constraint.AbstractBridge. This type must have fields to store all the new variables and constraints that the bridge will add. Typically, these types are parametrized by the type of the coefficients in the model.

Then, three sets of functions must be defined:

  1. Bridges.Constraint.bridge_constraint: this function implements the bridge and creates the required variables and constraints.
  2. supports_constraint: these functions should return true when the combination of function and set is supported by the bridge. By default, the base implementation always returns false and the bridge does not have to provide this implementation.
  3. Bridges.added_constrained_variable_types and Bridges.added_constraint_types: these functions return the types of variables and constraints that this bridge adds. They are used to compute the set of other bridges that are required to use the one you are defining, if need be.

More functions can be implemented, for instance to retrieve properties from the bridge or deleting a bridged constraint.

1. Structure for the bridge

A typical struct behind a bridge depends on the type of the coefficients that are used for the model (typically Float64, but coefficients might also be integers or complex numbers).

This structure must hold a reference to all the variables and the constraints that are created as part of the bridge.

The type of this structure is used throughout MOI as an identifier for the bridge. It is passed as argument to most functions related to bridges.

The best practice is to have the name of this type end with Bridge.

In our example, the bridge should be able to map any ScalarAffineFunction{T}-in-LessThan{T} constraint to a single ScalarAffineFunction{T}-in-GreaterThan{T} constraint. The affine function has coefficients of type T. The bridge is parametrized with T, so that the constraint that the bridge creates also has coefficients of type T.

struct SignBridge{T<:Number} <: Bridges.Constraint.AbstractBridge
    constraint::ConstraintIndex{ScalarAffineFunction{T}, GreaterThan{T}}

2. Bridge creation

The function Bridges.Constraint.bridge_constraint is called whenever the bridge should be instantiated for a specific model, with the given function and set. The arguments to bridge_constraint are similar to add_constraint, with the exception of the first argument: it is the Type of the struct defined in the first step (for our example, Type{SignBridge{T}}).

bridge_constraint returns an instance of the struct defined in the first step. the first step.

In our example, the bridge constraint could be defined as:

function Bridges.Constraint.bridge_constraint(
    ::Type{SignBridge{T}}, # Bridge to use.
    model::ModelLike, # Model to which the constraint is being added.
    f::ScalarAffineFunction{T}, # Function to rewrite.
    s::LessThan{T}, # Set to rewrite.
) where {T}
    # Create the variables and constraints required for the bridge.
    con = add_constraint(model, -f, GreaterThan(-s.upper))

    # Return an instance of the bridge type with a reference to all the 
    # variables and constraints that were created in this function.
    return SignBridge(con)

3. Supported constraint types

The function supports_constraint determines whether the bridge type supports a given combination of function and set.

This function must closely match bridge_constraint, because it will not be called if supports_constraint returns false.

function supports_constraint(
    ::Type{SignBridge{T}}, # Bridge to use.
    ::Type{ScalarAffineFunction{T}}, # Function to rewrite.
    ::Type{LessThan{T}}, # Set to rewrite.
) where {T}
    # Do some computation to ensure that the constraint is supported.
    # Typically, you can directly return true.
    return true

4. Metadata about the bridge

To determine whether a bridge can be used, MOI uses a shortest-path algorithm that uses the variable types and the constraints that the bridge can create. This information is communicated from the bridge to MOI using the functions Bridges.added_constrained_variable_types and Bridges.added_constraint_types. Both return lists of tuples: either a list of 1-tuples containing the variable types (typically, ZeroOne or Integer) or a list of 2-tuples contained the functions and sets (like ScalarAffineFunction{T}-GreaterThan).

For our example, the bridge does not create any constrained variables, and only ScalarAffineFunction{T}-in-GreaterThan{T} constraints:

function Bridges.added_constrained_variable_types(::Type{SignBridge{T}}) where {T}
    # The bridge does not create variables, return an empty list of tuples: 
    return Tuple{Type}[]

function Bridges.added_constraint_types(::Type{SignBridge{T}}) where {T}
    return Tuple{Type,Type}[
        # One element per F-in-S the bridge creates.
        (ScalarAffineFunction{T}, GreaterThan{T}),

A bridge that creates binary variables would rather have this definition of added_constrained_variable_types:

function Bridges.added_constrained_variable_types(::Type{SomeBridge{T}}) where {T}
    # The bridge only creates binary variables: 
    return Tuple{Type}[(ZeroOne,)]

If you declare the creation of constrained variables in added_constrained_variable_types, the corresponding constraint type VariableIndex should not be indicated in added_constraint_types. This would restrict the use of the bridge to solvers that can add such a constraint after the variable is created.

More concretely, if you declare in added_constrained_variable_types that your bridge creates binary variables (ZeroOne), and if you never add such a constraint afterward (you do not call add_constraint(model, var, ZeroOne())), then you should not list (VariableIndex, ZeroOne) in added_constraint_types.

Typically, the function Bridges.Constraint.concrete_bridge_type does not have to be defined for most bridges.

Bridge registration

For a bridge to be used by MOI, it must be known by MOI.


The first way to do so is to create a single-bridge optimizer. This type of optimizer wraps another optimizer and adds the possibility to use only one bridge. It is especially useful when unit testing bridges.

It is common practice to use the same name as the type defined for the bridge (SignBridge, in our example) without the suffix Bridge.

const Sign{T,OT<: ModelLike} =
    SingleBridgeOptimizer{SignBridge{T}, OT}

In the context of unit tests, this bridge is used in conjunction with a Utilities.MockOptimizer:

mock = Utilities.MockOptimizer(
bridged_mock = Sign{Float64}(mock)

New bridge for a LazyBridgeOptimizer

Typical user-facing models for MOI are based on Bridges.LazyBridgeOptimizer. For instance, this type of model is returned by Bridges.full_bridge_optimizer. These models can be added more bridges by using Bridges.add_bridge:

inner_optimizer = Utilities.Model{Float64}()
optimizer = Bridges.full_bridge_optimizer(inner_optimizer, Float64)
Bridges.add_bridge(optimizer, SignBridge{Float64})

Bridge improvements

Attribute retrieval

Like models, bridges have attributes that can be retrieved using get and set. The most important ones are the number of variables and constraints, but also the lists of variables and constraints.

In our example, we only have one constraint and only have to implement the NumberOfConstraints and ListOfConstraintIndices attributes:

function get(
) where {T}
    return 1

function get(
) where {T}
    return [bridge.constraint]

You must implement one such pair of functions for each type of constraint the bridge adds to the model.


Avoid returning a list from the bridge object without copying it. Users should be able to change the contents of the returned list without altering the bridge object.

For variables, the situation is simpler. If your bridge creates new variables, you should implement the NumberOfVariables and ListOfVariableIndices attributes. However, these attributes do not have parameters, unlike their constraint counterparts. Only two functions suffice:

function get(
) where {T}
    return 0

function get(
) where {T}
    return VariableIndex[]

Model modifications

To avoid copying the model when the user request to change a constraint, MOI provides modify. Bridges can also implement this API to allow certain changes, such as coefficient changes.

In our case, a modification of a coefficient in the original constraint (i.e. replacing the value of the coefficient of a variable in the affine function) should be transmitted to the constraint created by the bridge, but with a sign change.

function modify(
        ScalarCoefficientChange(change.variable, -change.new_coefficient),

Bridge deletion

When a bridge is deleted, the constraints it added should be deleted too.

function delete(model::ModelLike, bridge::SignBridge)
    delete(model, bridge.constraint)