Taking Optimization With You After Graduation

In the Tepper MBA program, we use versions of Excel’s Solver (actually a souped up version from Frontline Systems)  for most of our basic optimization courses.  Students like this since they feel comfortable with the Excel interface and they know that they can use something like this in their summer internships and first jobs, albeit they are likely to the more crippled version standard with Excel.  For those who are particularly keen, we point them to an open source optimization system that can allow them to stay within the Excel structure.

In our most advanced course, we use AIMMS with Gurobi as the underlying solver. Students generally love the power of the system, but worry that they will not be able to translate what they learn into their jobs.  This wouldn’t be an issue if companies had analytics and optimization as a core strength, and routinely had some of the commercial software, but that is not the case.  So the issue of transfer comes up often.

I am really happy to see that Gurobi has a deal in place to allow students to continue using their software, even after they graduate.  This gives new graduates some time to wow their new employers with their skills, and to make the argument for further investment in operations research capabilities.

Here is an excerpt from an email I received from Gurobi:

Academic Site License

Our FREE academic site license allows students, faculty, and staff at a degree-granting academic institution to use Gurobi from any machine on a university local-area network. This program makes it easy for everyone at the university to have access to the latest version of Gurobi, without having to obtain their own license. You can learn more on our Academic Licensing page, and your network administrator can request a license by emailing support@gurobi.com.

Take Gurobi With You Program Update

This program allows qualified recent graduates to obtain a FREE one-year license of Gurobi for use at their new employer.

Qualified recent graduates can complete a short approval process and then receive the license including maintenance and support at no cost to themselves or their employers. This reflects our continuing support of students, even after they graduate. You can learn more on our Take Gurobi With You page.

I think this sort of program can have a great effect on the use of optimization in practice.  And we need to rethink what we teach in the classrooms now that we know the “can’t take it with you” effect is lessened.

New Optimization Software Version: Gurobi

The INFORMS Practice Meeting has become a good place for optimization software firms to announce their new versions. Gurobi is first off the mark with an announcement of version 3.0. New aspects include better use of multiple cores in the barrier solver and what looks to be significant improvements to the mixed integer programming solver. Quadratic programming will wait for version 4.0, with an expected release in November, 2010.

Future plans include second order cone programming (SOCP), including a mixed integer version. I really think I should know more about SOCP, but it doesn’t seem to fit with me: I see mixed integer linear programs everywhere I look, but never say “Wow, now there is a SOCP”. Perhaps I’ll start seeing them in time for the Gurobi release a couple of versions down the road.

Free IBM/ILOG Software…

… if you are an academic.

As part of the “blue-washing” of ILOG, the academic licensing system for IBM’s OPL Studio, constraint programming system, and CPLEX has changed to become part of IBM’s Academic Initiative Program.  Here is the full announcement:

Effective February 15, 2010, IBM is offering no-charge full-version ILOG Optimization products via IBM’s Academic Initiative program (http://www.ibm.com/academicinitiative). This move builds on the availability of limited Teaching Editions available since August 2009, and now provides registered members with renewable one-year access to IBM ILOG OPL-CPLEX, CPLEX, CP Optimizer and CP for both teaching and research use. Registered members can access ILOG Optimization software at: https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/university/software/get_software.html, where they can search for ILOG Optimization or individual solvers by name. Depending on the search criteria, electronic assemblies will be retrieved for IBM ILOG OPL Development Studio, CPLEX, CP Optimizer or CP on all commercially available platforms. To run the software, members will also need to download a key from: https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/university/support/ilog.html, but are no longer required to install ILM. Note that as part of Academic Initiative, IBM also makes its professionally-developed training materials available for use in classrooms and labs at: https://www14.software.ibm.com/webapp/devtool/scholar/web/coursewarePickPage.do?source=ai-course-websphere.

I signed up for the program yesterday, and it was painless. Once I showed my inability to read simple instructions by missing the “how to download a key” section (an issue quickly and cheerfully handled by IBM), I was up and going with CPLEX. There are also some educational materials on both the CP and CPLEX side which look very well done.