Fred Glover and Solver

Fred W. Glover for the foundations and dissemination of meta-heuristics

Daniel Fylstra, Leon S. Lasdon, Edwin Straver, Allan Waren, and John Watson for the optimization engine Solver and its contribution to spreadsheet programs

Team Awards

Impact Prize : Winner(s)
L to R: Geert-Jan van Houtum (committee member), Fred Glover, Srinivas Bollapragada (committee member), John Watson, Leon Lasdon, Daniel Fylstra, Edwin Straver, and Allan Waren (for Solver), and Susan Albin, INFORMS President

The 2010 INFORMS IMPACT PRIZE is awarded to Fred Glover and Solver, developed by Daniel Fylstra, Leon Lasdon, Edwin Straver, Allan Waren, and John Watson of Frontline Systems, Inc.

Fred Glover helped pioneer the field of metaheuristics (which he himself named) with his introduction of Scatter Search in his 1977 Decision Sciences paper, “Heuristics for Integer Programming Using Surrogate Constraints.” Over the next ten years he continued his work in this nascent field, ultimately formalizing his revolutionary Tabu Search algorithm in his 1987 Computers and Operations Research paper, “Future Paths for Integer Programming and Links to Artificial Intelligence.” These two papers alone garnered over 2000 citations, paving the way for the explosive development of metaheuristic research in the following decades.

Since that time scores of other researchers have taken the original ideas of Professor Glover and used them to develop novel metaheuristic algorithms, sometimes by directly hybridizing elements of Scatter Search and Tabu Search. This academic legacy spreads across the decades and around the globe: Professor Glover delivered the keynote address at the inaugural Metaheuristics International Conference (MIC) in 1995; MIC IX will be held in Italy next year. One of the most dramatic testimonials to Professor Glover’s contribution to operations research is the fact that “Scatter Searach,” “Tabu Search,” and “Metahueristic” have become common keywords in the academic literature.

Even with this vast growth in the field of metaheuristics, Scatter Search and Tabu Search have remained two of the most prominent, most successful, and most widely applied metaheuristic algorithms. Their impact can be seen in almost any field which features extremely difficult problems of a combinatorial nature, including knapsack problems, telecommunications, network design, scheduling, financial planning, DNA sequencing, logistics, and computational biology. Despite the fact that these problems typically defy standard exact solution methods, Professor Glover’s work has shown that optimal solutions can often be found relatively quickly through application of intelligent search methods.

Professor Glover’s contributions to the popularization of metaheuristics includes not only his original research, but also through the publication of a textbook, the founding of the Journal of Heuristics, and his role in development of the OptQuest software package by OptTek Systems, a company he co-founded in 1992. OptQuest continues to enjoy significant popularity worldwide, as do many other commercial optimization packages containing Tabu Search and Scatter Search algorithms, such as CPlex.

For his seminal work on metaheuristic algorithms, specifically the development of Scatter Search and Tabu Search, and for his work popularizing these techniques as effective solution methods for previously intractable problems, INFORMS is delighted to award the 2010 Impact Prize to Professor Fred Glover.

Arguably, over the last twenty years no single tool (or family of tools) has done more to bring operations research into the hands of students, researchers, and practitioners than Solver. Mr. Flystra, Professor Lasdon, Mr. Straver, Professor Waren and Dr. Watson share the credit for the overwhelming success and impact of Solver.

Solver was developed by Frontline systems, the company founded by Mr. Fylstra, using the GRG2 algorithms and code developed by Professors Lasdon and Waren. This code enabled Solver to accurately solve both linear and nonlinear models. These capabilities were later augmented by a Simplex method and Branch and Bound Algorithm for linear and mixed integer programs, implemented by Dr. Watson. This set of algorithms formed the backbone of the optimization engine in all successive versions of Solver products developed at Frontline by Mr. Fylstra and Mr. Straver. The most recent versions of Excel for Windows and Macintosh have added a hybrid Evolutionary algorithm, written by Mr. Fylstra and enhanced by Mr. Straver, which uses genetic algorithms, the GRG method, and the Simplex method in combination on arbitrary Excel models.

Solver’s success began with Frontline’s victory in a worldwide competition to supply a Solver for Microsoft Excel 3.0; this was quickly followed by contracts to install Solver in Borland’s Quattro Pro in 1992 and Lotus 1-2-3 in 1996. Thus by 1996 the vast majority of spreadsheet optimization was executed using Solver. Since that time Solver has been included in every copy of Microsoft Excel, and currently enjoys an installed base of approximately a half a billion users. In addition, advanced Solver tools have been licensed to over 5,000 companies in fields such as aerospace, automotive, banking, chemical, consumer goods, defense, financial services, health care and pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, mining, utilities, and many types of manufacturing.

These successes have also made their way into the academic literature and education: A special issue of Interfaces was devoted to Spreadsheet OR Applications in 2008, and a 1998 Interfaces article about Solver, “Design and Use of the Microsoft Excel Solver” by Mr. Fylstra, Professor Lasdon, Dr. Watson, and Professor Waren has garnered over 200 citations. Moreover, Premium Solver for Education has been licensed for inclusion in over 35 textbooks and has become a core tool in MBA education.