High-Dimensional Gaussian Sampling: A Review and a Unifying Approach Based on a Stochastic Proximal Point Algorithm

Efficient sampling from a high-dimensional Gaussian distribution is an old but high-stakes issue. Vanilla Cholesky samplers imply a computational cost and memory requirements that can rapidly become prohibitive in high dimensions. To tackle these issues, multiple methods have been proposed from different communities ranging from iterative numerical linear algebra to Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) approaches. Surprisingly, no complete review and comparison of these methods has been conducted. This paper aims to review all these approaches by pointing out their differences, close relations, benefits, and limitations. In addition to reviewing the state of the art, this paper proposes a unifying Gaussian simulation framework by deriving a stochastic counterpart of the celebrated proximal point algorithm in optimization. This framework offers a novel and unifying revisiting of most of the existing MCMC approaches while also extending them. Guidelines to choosing the appropriate Gaussian simulation method for a given sampling problem in high dimensions are proposed and illustrated with numerical examples.