## Local Evaluation of Policies for Discounted Markov Decision Problems

Please always quote using this URN: urn:nbn:de:0297-zib-11963

- Providing realistic performance indicators of online algorithms for a given online optimization problem is a difficult task in general. Due to significant drawbacks of other concepts like competitive analysis, Markov decision problems (MDPs) may yield an attractive alternative whenever reasonable stochastic information about future requests is available. However, the number of states in MDPs emerging from real applications is usually exponential in the original input parameters. Therefore, the standard methods for analyzing policies, i.e., online algorithms in our context, are infeasible. In this thesis we propose a new computational tool to evaluate the behavior of policies for discounted MDPs locally, i.e., depending on a particular initial state. The method is based on a column generation algorithm for approximating the total expected discounted cost of an unknown optimal policy, a concrete policy, or a single action (which assumes actions at other states to be made according to an optimal policy). The algorithm determines an $\varepsilon$-approximation by inspecting only relatively small local parts of the total state space. We prove that the number of states required for providing the approximation is independent of the total number of states, which underlines the practicability of the algorithm. The approximations obtained by our algorithm are typically much better than the theoretical bounds obtained by other approaches. We investigate the pricing problem and the structure of the linear programs encountered in the column generation. Moreover, we propose and analyze different extensions of the basic algorithm in order to achieve good approximations fast. The potential of our analysis tool is exemplified for discounted MDPs emerging from different online optimization problems, namely online bin coloring, online target date assignment, and online elevator control. The results of the experiments are quite encouraging: our method is mostly capable to provide performance indicators for online algorithms that much better reflect observations made in simulations than competitive analysis does. Moreover, the analysis allows to reveal weaknesses of the considered online algorithms. This way, we developed a new online algorithm for the online bin coloring problem that outperforms existing ones in our analyses and simulations.