Inference in Bayes Nets (BAYES) is an important problem with numerous applications in probabilistic reasoning. Counting the number of satisfying assignments of a propositional formula (#SAT) is a closely related problem of fundamental theoretical importance. Both these problems, and others, are members of the class of sum-of-products (SUMPROD) problems. In this paper we show that standard backtracking search when augmented with a simple memoization scheme (caching) can solve any sum-of-products problem with time complexity that is at least as good any other state-of-the-art exact algorithm, and that it can also achieve the best known time-space tradeoff. Furthermore, backtrackingís ability to utilize more flexible variable orderings allows us to prove that it can achieve an exponential speedup over other standard algorithms for SUMPROD on some instances.
The ideas presented here have been utilized in a number of solvers that have been applied to various types of sum-of-product problems. These systemís have exploited the fact that backtracking can naturally exploit more of the problemís structure to achieve improved performance on a range of probleminstances. Empirical evidence of this performance gain has appeared in published works describing these solvers, and we provide references to these works.