Praneeth Netrapalli (Microsoft Research India)
Semidefinite programs (SDP) are important in learning and combinatorial optimization with numerous applications. In pursuit of low-rank solutions and low complexity algorithms, we consider the Burer--Monteiro factorization approach for solving SDPs. We show that all approximate local optima are global optima for the penalty formulation of appropriately rank-constrained SDPs as long as the number of constraints scales sub-quadratically with the desired rank of the optimal solution. Our result is based on a simple penalty function formulation of the rank-constrained SDP along with a smoothed analysis to avoid worst-case cost matrices.