Restarting Dakota

Dakota is often used to solve problems that require repeatedly running computationally expensive simulation codes. In some cases you may want to repeat an optimization study, but with a tighter final convergence tolerance. This would be costly if the entire optimization analysis had to be repeated. Interruptions imposed by computer usage policies, power outages, and system failures could also result in costly delays. However, Dakota automatically records the variable and response data from all function evaluations so that subsequent Dakota executions can pick up where previous runs left off.

The Dakota restart file (“dakota.rst” by default) archives the tabulated interface evaluations in a binary format. The primary restart options for the dakota command are -read_restart, -write_restart, and -stop_restart. Once written, a restart file may also be processed using The Dakota Restart Utility.

Writing Restart Files

To write a restart file using a particular name, the -write_restart command line option (may be abbreviated as -w) is used:

dakota -i -write_restart my_restart_file

If no -write_restart specification is used, then Dakota will still write a restart file, but using the default name “dakota.rst” instead of a user-specified name. To turn restart recording off, the user may select deactivate restart_file in the interface specification. This can increase execution speed and reduce disk storage requirements, but at the expense of a loss in the ability to recover and continue a run that terminates prematurely. This option is not recommended when function evaluations are costly or prone to failure.


Using the deactivate restart_file specification will result in a zero length restart file with the default name “dakota.rst”, which can overwrite an exiting file.

Reading Restart Files

To restart Dakota from a restart file, the -read_restart command line option (may be abbreviated as -r) is used:

dakota -i -read_restart my_restart_file

If no -read_restart specification is used, then Dakota will not read restart information from any file, i.e., the default is no restart processing.

Partially Reading a Restart File

To read in only a portion of a restart file, the -stop_restart control (may be abbreviated as -s) is used to specify the number of entries to be read from the database.


The specified integer stop value corresponds to the restart record processing counter (as can be seen when using the print utility (see The Dakota Restart Utility) which may differ from the evaluation numbers used in the previous run if, for example, any duplicates were detected (since these duplicates are not recorded in the restart file).

In the case of a -stop_restart specification, it is usually desirable to specify a new restart file using -write_restart so as to remove the records of erroneous or corrupted function evaluations. For example, to read in the first 50 evaluations from dakota.rst:

dakota -i -r dakota.rst -s 50 -w dakota_new.rst

The dakota_new.rst file will contain the 50 processed evaluations from dakota.rst as well as any new evaluations. All evaluations following the 50th in “dakota.rst” have been removed from the latest restart record.

Appending to a Restart File

If the -write_restart and -read_restart specifications identify the same file (including the case where -write_restart is not specified and -read_restart identifies “dakota.rst”), then new evaluations will be appended to the existing restart file.

Working with Multiple Restart Files

If the -write_restart and -read_restart specifications identify different files, then the evaluations read from the file identified by -read_restart are first written to the -write_restart file. Any new evaluations are then appended to the -write_restart file. In this way, restart operations can be chained together indefinitely with the assurance that all of the relevant evaluations are present in the latest restart file.

How it Works

Dakota’s restart algorithm relies on its duplicate detection capabilities. Processing a restart file populates the list of function evaluations that have been performed. Then, when the study is restarted, it is started from the beginning (not a warm start) and many of the function evaluations requested by the iterator are intercepted by the duplicate detection code. This approach has the primary advantage of restoring the complete state of the iteration (including the ability to correctly detect subsequent duplicates) for all methods/iterators without the need for iterator-specific restart code. However, the possibility exists for numerical round-off error to cause a divergence between the evaluations performed in the previous and restarted studies. This has been rare in practice.

Deep Dive into Dakota Restart Format

  • The Dakota restart file (e.g., “dakota.rst”) is written in a binary format, leveraging the Boost.Serialization library. While the cross-platform portability may not be as general as, say, the XDR standard, experience has shown it to be a sufficiently portable format to meet most users needs.

  • Caution should be exercised to ensure consistent endianness of the computer architectures involved when attempting to leverage the restart capability in a multi-host environment. For example, if a little endian host is used to create the restart file, it can only be reliably ported and read on a host that is also little endian.

  • By default, Dakota’s evaluation cache and restart capabilities are based on strict binary equality. This provides a performance advantage, as it permits a hash-based data structure to be used to search the evaluation cache. Dakota 6.0 and newer have an additional cache tolerance options to manage the function evaluation cache, duplicate evaluation detection, and restart data file entries. In the interface’s analysis_drivers it is possible to provide additional deactivate parameters in the specification block: deactivate strict_cache_equality, together with an optional tolerance. Their use may prevent cache misses, which can occur when attempting to use a restart file on a machine different from the one on which it was generated.


    Relaxing strict cache equality should be considered judiciously, on a case-by-case basis, since there will be a performance penalty for the non-hashed evaluation cache lookups for detection of duplicates. That said, there are situations in which it is desirable to accept the performance hit of the slower cache lookups (for example a computationally expensive analysis driver).