Dependency Structure of Definitions

Dependency graph

The definitions inside the declarations of global sets and parameters together form a system of interrelated functional relationships. AIMMS automatically determines the dependency between the defined identifiers and the inputs that are used inside these relationships. Such dependencies can be depicted in the form of a directed graph, called the dependency graph. From this dependency graph, AIMMS determines the minimal set of identifiers that must be recomputed-and in which order-to get the total system of functional relationships up-to-date.


Consider the system of definitions

\[\begin{split}\begin{align} d_1 & \equiv e_1 + e_2 \\ d_2 & \equiv d_1 + d_3 \\ d_3 & \equiv e_2 + e_3 \\ d_4 & \equiv e_1 + d_2. \end{align}\end{split}\]

Its dependency graph, with identifiers as nodes and dependencies as directed arcs, looks as follows.


Note that a change to the input parameter \(e_3\), for instance, requires the re-computation of the defined parameters \(d_2,\dots,d_4\)-but not of \(d_1\)-to update the entire system.

Dependencies must be a-cyclic

The dependency graph associated with the set and parameter definitions must be a-cyclic, i.e. must not contain circular references. In this case, every change to one or more input parameters of defined sets or parameters will result in a finite sequence of assignments to update the system. If the dependency graph is cyclic, a simultaneous system of relations will result. Such a system may not have a (unique) solution, and can only be solved by a specialized solver. Simultaneous systems of relations are handled inside AIMMS through the use of constraints and mathematical programs.


An illegal set of dependencies results if the definition of \(d_1\) in the last example is changed as follows.

\[d_1 \equiv d_4 + e_1 + e_2.\]

This results in the following cyclic dependency graph.


Now, a change to any of the input parameters \(e_1,\dots,e_3\) will result in a simultaneous system for the parameters \(d_1\), \(d_2\) and \(d_4\).

AIMMS will check

AIMMS computes the dependency structure between the parameter and set definitions while compiling your model. If AIMMS detects a cyclic dependency, an error will result, because AIMMS can, in general, not deal with cyclic dependencies without relying on specialized numerical solvers. In that case you need to remove the cyclic dependencies before you can execute the model without further modifications. If you are unable to remove the cyclic dependencies, you have essentially two alternatives. You can either formulate a mathematical program, or define your own solution method inside a procedure.

Variables for simultaneous systems

The cyclic system can be turned into a mathematical program by changing the parameters with cyclic definitions into variables. This results in a simultaneous system of equalities which can be solved through a SOLVE statement. The declaration of mathematical programs is discussed in Solving Mathematical Programs.

Feedback loops

The alternative is to implement a customized solution procedure by breaking the simultaneous system into a simulation with a feedback loop linking inputs and outputs. To accomplish this, you must first remove the cyclic definitions from the declarations, and then add a procedure that implements the feedback loop. If you have sufficient knowledge of the process you are describing, this route may result in fast convergence behavior.

Dependency is global only

AIMMS only allows a definition for globally declared sets and parameters. Consequently, a single global dependency graph suffices to express the functional relationships between all defined sets and parameters.

Dependency is symbolic

In addition, the dependency structure between set and parameter definitions is purely based on symbol references. As a result, AIMMS’ automatic evaluation scheme will always recompute an indexed (output) parameter depending on an indexed (input) parameter in its entirety, even when only a single input value has changed.

Inefficiency may occur

This evaluation behavior may lead to severe inefficiencies when you use a high-dimensional defined parameter that is re-evaluated repeatedly during the execution of a loop in your model. In such cases it is advisable to refrain from using a definition for such a parameter, but replace it by one or more assignments at the appropriate places in your model. This issue is discussed in full detail in Dependency is symbolic.