Dakota Reference Manual  Version 6.12
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Specify which finite difference routine is used


Alias: none

Argument(s): none

Default: dakota


The method_source setting specifies the source of the finite differencing routine that will be used to compute the numerical gradients:

  • dakota (default)
  • vendor

dakota denotes Dakota's internal finite differencing algorithm and vendor denotes the finite differencing algorithm supplied by the iterator package in use (DOT, CONMIN, NPSOL, NL2SOL, NLSSOL, ROL, and OPT++ each have their own internal finite differencing routines). The dakota routine is the default since it can execute in parallel and exploit the concurrency in finite difference evaluations (see Exploiting Parallelism in the Users Manual [5]).

However, the vendor setting can be desirable in some cases since certain libraries will modify their algorithm when the finite differencing is performed internally. Since the selection of the dakota routine hides the use of finite differencing from the optimizers (the optimizers are configured to accept user-supplied gradients, which some algorithms assume to be of analytic accuracy), the potential exists for the vendor setting to trigger the use of an algorithm more optimized for the higher expense and/or lower accuracy of finite-differencing. For example, NPSOL uses gradients in its line search when in user-supplied gradient mode (since it assumes they are inexpensive), but uses a value-based line search procedure when internally finite differencing. The use of a value-based line search will often reduce total expense in serial operations. However, in parallel operations, the use of gradients in the NPSOL line search (user-supplied gradient mode) provides excellent load balancing without need to resort to speculative optimization approaches.

In summary, then, the dakota routine is preferred for parallel optimization, and the vendor routine may be preferred for serial optimization in special cases.