What Must I Do to Use a Solver?

To use a solver, you must build a model of your decision problem that specifies:

  • The decisions to be made, called decision variables,
  • The measure to optimize, called the objective,
  • Any logical restrictions on potential solutions, called constraints.

The solver will find values for the decision variables that satisfy the constraints while optimizing (maximizing or minimizing) the objective.

Using Spreadsheets.  Spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel provide a convenient way to build such a model.  Cells on a worksheet can hold numbers, labels, or formulas that calculate values.  The decision variables for a model are simply worksheet cells containing numbers the solver can change.  The objective is a cell containing a formula you want the solver to maximize (or minimize) by adjusting the values of the decision variable cells.  Constraints are logical conditions on formula cells that must be satisfied (specified with <=, = or >= relations).  Frontline's various Solver products provide powerful tools for solving, or optimizing, such models.

Using Custom Programs.  Another way to build an optimization model is to write code in a programming language such as Visual Basic, C#, Java or C/C++.  Variables or arrays in the program hold the decision variables and other needed data while code is written to calculate values for the constraints and objective.  Frontline's Solver SDK products provide equally powerful tools for solving, or optimizing, models in this form.

The choice of approach is yours.  Spreadsheets offer a quick way to build a model, and you can easily explain the model and its results to other users.  Application programs written in a programming language may offer higher performance and may be easier to distribute widely, within a company or to commercial users.

No matter which approach you choose, Frontline Systems' Solver products provide the key optimization technology in an easy-to-use, reliable form.