Sparse Hashing for Scalable Approximate Model Counting: Theory and Practice


Given a CNF formula F on n variables, the problem of model counting, also referred to as #SAT, is to compute the number of models or satisfying assignments of F. Model counting is a fundamental but hard problem in computer science with varied applications. Recent years have witnessed a surge of effort towards developing efficient algorithmic techniques that combine the classical 2-universal hashing (from [Stockmeyer 1983]) with the remarkable progress in SAT solving over the past decade. These techniques augment the CNF formula F with random XOR constraints and invoke an NP oracle repeatedly on the resultant CNF-XOR formulas. In practice, the NP oracle calls are replaced by calls to a SAT solver and it is observed that runtime performance of modern SAT solvers (based on conflict-driven clause learning) on CNF-XOR formulas is adversely affected by the size of XOR constraints. However, the standard construction of 2-universal hash functions chooses every variable with probability p =1/2 leading to XOR constraints of size n/2 in expectation. Consequently, the main challenge is to design sparse hash functions, where variables can be chosen with smaller probability and lead to smaller sized XOR constraints, which can then replace 2-universal hash functions. In this paper, our goal is to address this challenge both from a theoretical and a practical perspective. First, we formalize a relaxation of universal hashing, called concentrated hashing, a notion implicit in prior works to design sparse hash functions. We then establish a novel and beautiful connection between concentration measures of these hash functions and isoperimetric inequalities on boolean hypercubes. This allows us to obtain tight bounds on variance as well as the dispersion index and show that p = O(log m /m ) suffices for the design of sparse hash functions from 2^n to 2^m belonging to concentrated hash family. Finally, we use sparse hash functions belonging to this concentrated hash family to develop new approximate counting algorithms. A comprehensive experimental evaluation of our algorithm on 1896 benchmarks with computational effort of over 20,000 computational hours demonstrates significant speedup compared to existing approaches. To the best of our knowledge, this work is the first study to demonstrate runtime improvement of approximate model counting algorithms through the usage of sparse hash functions, while still retaining strong theoretical guarantees (a la 2-universal hash functions).

In Proceedings of Logic in Computer science (LICS)