NOTE: The information on this page refers to Ipopt version 3.10. For uptodate information on how to build the Ipopt/MATLAB interface, see the Ipopt documentation

Note, that also precompiled mex files are available here and here.

How to install and use the MATLAB interface for IPOPT

Peter Carbonetto
Department of Computer Science
University of British Columbia


Throughout this tutorial, I'll be assuming you have some sort of UNIX-based operating system such as Mac OS X, Solaris or Linux. I'm afraid these instructions do not directly apply to the Windows operating system. Hopefully you have enough experience with Windows to figure out how to modify these steps for your setup. (There is a detailed step-by-step guide for Windows including 64-bit platforms and a documentation of the Matlab Interface itself. If you are using Windows, you may also have a look at the gnumex project website before continuing. In addition, some detailed instruction steps for compilation of the Matlab interface (for 32 bit Matlab) under Windows 7 have been compiled by Ipopt users and are available here and here.)

Naturally, you'll need to have a version of MATLAB installed on your computer. This software package has been tested on MATLAB versions 7.2 through 7.7. It might very well work on earlier versions of MATLAB, but there is also a good chance that it will not. It is unlikely that the software will run with versions prior to MATLAB 6.5.

1. Install supported compilers

The first thing you need to do is install a C++ compiler and a Fortran 77 compiler. It is crucial that you use the precise compilers supported by MATLAB. For instance, on my Linux machine I have MATLAB version 7.3, so the people at MathWorks tell me that I need to have the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) version 3.4.5. If you use the incorrect version of GCC, you will likely encounter linking errors. The mex command will tell you which compiler versions are legal.

2. Configure MATLAB

Once you've installed the appropriate compilers, set up and configure MATLAB to build MEX files. This is explained quite nicely here.

3. Install IPOPT

To install IPOPT, follow the standard IPOPT installation procedure with a few small changes.

Usually, MATLAB demands that you compile the code with certain flags, such as -fPIC and -fexceptions on Linux. The first flag tells the compiler to generate position-independent code, and the second flag enables exception handling. Usually these flags coincide with your MEX options file. You can figure out which flags are used on your system by running the mex compiler with the -v flag on a simple example source file (Hello World is your friend). See this MathWorks technical support webpage for more information on the MEX options file.

IPOPT attempts to automatically locate the directory where MATLAB is installed by querying the location of the mex executable. You can also manually specify the MATLAB home directory when calling the configure script with the flag --with-matlab-home.

In practice, you might find that it is easier to install and use the MATLAB interface by disabling compilation of the shared libraries, and use only static libraries instead. This is achieved with the configure script flag -disable-shared.

On a Linux machine with MATLAB 7.3 installed, the call to the IPOPT configure script will look something like

  ./configure --prefix=$HOME/ipopt/install      \
       CXX=g++-3.4.5 CC=gcc-3.4.5 F77=g77-3.4.5 \
       ADD_CXXFLAGS="-fPIC -fexceptions"        \
       ADD_CFLAGS="-fPIC -fexceptions"          \
       ADD_FFLAGS="-fPIC -fexceptions"

I also installed the MATLAB interface to IPOPT on an Apple computer running Mac OS X 10.3.9 and MATLAB 7.2. For this machine, I ran the configure script with the following command:

  ./configure --prefix=$HOME/ipopt/install                        \
    ADD_CFLAGS="-fno-common -fexceptions -no-cpp-precomp -fPIC"   \
    ADD_CXXFLAGS="-fno-common -fexceptions -no-cpp-precomp -fPIC" \
    ADD_FFLAGS="-x f77-cpp-input -fPIC -fno-common"               \
    FLIBS="-lg2c -lfrtbegin -lSystem"                             \
    F77=g77 CC=gcc CXX=g++

After this, follow the standard installation steps: type make, wait a few minutes, then make install in the UNIX command line. This compiles all the source code into a single library and places it in the install directory as specified by the prefix variable above.

What we haven't yet done is compile the code for the MATLAB interface. We'll do this next.

4. Modify the Makefile and build the MEX file

Go to into the subdirectory Ipopt/contrib/MatlabInterface/src and open the file called Makefile with your favourite text editor. You need to edit this file a little bit to suit for your system setup. You will find that most of the variables such as CXX and CXXFLAGS have been automatically (and hopefully, correctly) set according to the flags specified during your initial call to configure script.

However, you may need to modify MATLAB_HOME, MEXSUFFIX and MEX as explained in the comments of the Makefile. On one of our Linux machines, we had set these Makefile variables to

  MATLAB_HOME = /cs/local/generic/lib/pkg/matlab-7.3/bin/matlab
  MEXSUFFIX   = mexglx

Once you think you've set up the Makefile properly, type make install in the same directory as the Makefile. If you didn't get any errors, then you're pretty much all set to go!

There's a great possibility you will encounter problems with the installation instructions we have just described here. I'm afraid some resourcefulness will be required on your part, as the installation will be slightly different for each person. Please consult the troubleshooting section on this webpage, and the archives of the IPOPT mailing list. If you can't find the answer at either of these locations, try sending an email to the IPOPT mailing list.

5. Final steps

If the installation procedure was successful, you will end up with a MEX file. On a Linux machine, the MEX file will be called ipopt.mexglx. In order to use it in MATLAB, you need to tell MATLAB where to find it. The best way to do this is to type

  addpath sourcedir

in the MATLAB command prompt, where sourcedir is the location of the MEX file you created. (For more information, type help addpath in MATLAB. You can also achieve the same thing by modifying the MATLABPATH environment variable in the UNIX command line, using either the export command (in Bash shell), or the setenv command (in C-shell).

Using the MATLAB interface

There are several illustrative examples provided in the Ipopt/contrib/MatlabInterface/examples directory. The best way to understand how to use the interface is to carefully go over these examples.

For more information, type help ipopt in the MATLAB prompt.

A note on 64-bit platforms

Starting with version 7.3, MATLAB can handle 64-bit addressing, and the authors of MATLAB have modified the implementation of sparse matrices to reflect this change. However, the row and column indices in the sparse matrix are converted to signed integers, and this could potentially cause problems when dealing with large, sparse matrices on 64-bit platforms with MATLAB version 7.3 or greater.

Troubleshooting and known issues

The installation procedure I've described does involve a certain amount of expertise on the part of the user. If you are encountering problems, it is highly recommended that you follow the standard installation of IPOPT first, and then test the installation by running some examples, either in C++ or in AMPL.

What follows are a list of common errors encountered, along with a suggested remedy.

PROBLEM: compilation is successful, but MATLAB crashes

Even if you didn't get any errors during compilation, there's still a possibility that you didn't link the MEX file properly. In this case, executing IPOPT in MATLAB will cause MATLAB to crash. This is a common problem, and usually arises because you did not choose the proper compiler or set the proper compilation flags (e.g. -fPIC) when you ran the configure script at the very beginning.

PROBLEM: MATLAB fails to link to IPOPT shared library

You might encounter this problem if you try to execute one of the examples in MATLAB, and MATLAB complains that it cannot find the IPOPT shared library. The installation script has been set up so that the MEX file you are calling knows where to look for the IPOPT shared library. However, if you moved the library then you will run into a problem. One way to fix this problem is to modify the LDFLAGS variable in the MATLAB interface Makefile (see above) so that the correct path of the IPOPT library is specified. Alternatively, you could modify the LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable so that the location of the IPOPT library is included in the path. If none of this is familiar to you, you might want to do a web search to find out more.

PROBLEM: "mwIndex" is not defined

You may get a compilation error that says something to the effect that mwIndex is not defined. This error will surface on a version of MATLAB prior to 7.3. The solution is to add the flag -DMWINDEXISINT to the CXXFLAGS variable in the MATLAB interface Makefile (see above).

Notes on implementation of the MATLAB interface

I won't bore you with all the details of the implementation. I would, however, like to briefly point out a few of them. Most of the issues of interest surround the representation of sparse matrices.

The MATLAB interface will necessarily be slower than the standard C++ interface to IPOPT. That's because MATLAB dynamically allocates new memory for all the outputs passed back from a function. Thus, for large problems each iteration of IPOPT will involve the dynamic allocation and deallocation of large amounts of memory.

Sparse matrices. The greatest challenge was most definitely the conversion of sparse matrices from MATLAB to IPOPT. Sparse matrices are used to represent the Jacobian of the constraint functions and the Hessian of the Lagrangian function. There is a very nice document by Gilbert, Moler and Schreiber that discusses the design and implementation of sparse matrices in the MATLAB environment. The problem is that IPOPT assumes a static sparse matrix structure, but in MATLAB there is no way to ensure that the size of the matrix (the number of non-zero elements) does not change over time; if an entry of a sparse matrix is set to zero, then the arrays are automatically adjusted so that no storage is expended for that entry. This may seem like a highly inefficient way to implement sparse matrices, and indeed it is. However, Gilbert, Moler and Schreiber emphasize efficient matrix-level operations over efficient element-level operations.

We can legitimately make the following assumption: the non-zero entries of a sparse matrix passed back from MATLAB are a subset of the non-zero entries in IPOPT's respective sparse matrix.

The class SparseMatrixStructure keeps track of the structure of a sparse MATLAB matrix. It does not store the values of the non-zero entries. I use it for the Jacobian of the constraints and the Hessian of the Lagrangian. Even though these two matrices are fundamentally different (one is square and lower triangular, the other is rectangular), we can treat their structures in the same way.

The principal functions of interest in class SparseMatrixStructure are getColsAndRows and copyElems. The function getColsAndRows converts the MATLAB sparse matrix format into the equivalent IPOPT format. The function copyElems copies the entries from one sparse matrix to another when one sparse matrix has a different structure than the other. Obviously, for the copy operation to be plausible, the set of non-zero entries of the destination matrix must be a superset of the non-zero entries of the source matrix. Due to efficiency concerns, no checks are made to ensure that this is satisfied; it is up to the user to ensure that a sparse matrix passed back to IPOPT never has a non-zero entry that was not declared initially when returnStructureOnly = true. In my implementation, I have gone through great pains to ensure: 1. that the copy function only makes one pass through the entries of the sparse matrix, and 2. that there are no if statements inside the for loops, which can severely impinge on the speed of the copy operation.

Nov 7, 2011 Ipopt on Mac OS X contains detailed Mac OS X build notes, including Matlab interface, by Ray Zimmerman (rz10@…).

Oct 3, 2012 In a Sept 14, 2012 post to the mailing list, Tony Kelman discusses changes to streamline the build process and links to some binaries that are available for download.
Last modified 4 years ago Last modified on May 26, 2013 1:28:13 AM