Balancing Risk and Reward: A Batched-Bandit Strategy for Automated Phased Release
Keywords: bandit algorithms, online learning, causality, Bayesian inference
TL;DR: Phased release via Bayesian Batched Bandit
Abstract: Phased releases are a common strategy in the technology industry for gradually releasing new products or updates through a sequence of A/B tests in which the number of treated units gradually grows until full deployment or deprecation. Performing phased releases in a principled way requires selecting the proportion of units assigned to the new release in a way that balances the risk of an adverse effect with the need to iterate and learn from the experiment rapidly. In this paper, we formalize this problem and propose an algorithm that automatically determines the release percentage at each stage in the schedule, balancing the need to control risk while maximizing ramp-up speed. Our framework models the challenge as a constrained batched bandit problem that ensures that our pre-specified experimental budget is not depleted with high probability. Our proposed algorithm leverages an adaptive Bayesian approach in which the maximal number of units assigned to the treatment is determined by the posterior distribution, ensuring that the probability of depleting the remaining budget is low. Notably, our approach analytically solves the ramp sizes by inverting probability bounds, eliminating the need for challenging rare-event Monte Carlo simulation. It only requires computing means and variances of outcome subsets, making it highly efficient and parallelizable.
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Submission Number: 7133