February 27, 2024

November: Record-breaking £225m investment to create UK’s most powerful supercomputer | News and features

Details of a £225 million investment by the Government to create the UK’s fastest supercomputer at the University of Bristol have been announced today. [1 November 2023].

The funding injection, part of a £300m package to create a new national artificial intelligence research resource (AIRR) for the country, announced at the government’s AI Safety Summit in Bletchley Park, will make the UK a world leader in AI.

Known as Isambard-AI, it will be 10 times more powerful than the UK’s current fastest supercomputer and will be among the most powerful in the world when it opens at the National Composites Center (NCC) in summer 2024.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)* will build and deliver the new system with next-generation HPE Cray EX supercomputers and more than 5,000 next-generation NVIDIA GH200 superchips. Advanced technologies and design will enable Isambard-AI to achieve up to 200 trillion calculations per second.

The new Bristol facility will be used by a wide range of organizations across the UK to harness the power of AI, which is already the main driver of emerging technologies such as large language model (LLM) training, big data and robotics. The new supercomputing facility will also play a vital role in important areas such as accelerating automated drug discovery and climate research.

Isambard-AI will connect to a new Cambridge University supercomputer cluster, called Dawn, which is being developed to provide additional capacity as part of the new national AIRR.

Professor Simon McIntosh-Smith, Director of the Isambard National Research Center at the University of Bristol, said: “Isambard-AI represents a major leap forward for the computational power of AI in the UK. Today, Isambard-AI is would rank among the 10 fastest supercomputers.” in the world and, when it comes into operation at the end of 2024, it will be one of the most powerful artificial intelligence systems for open science in the world.

“It is immensely exciting to be at the forefront of the AI ​​revolution and to partner with industry leaders HPE and NVIDIA to rapidly build and deploy a large-scale research computing infrastructure to create one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. Isambard -AI will offer never-before-seen capacity in the UK for researchers and industry to harness the huge potential of AI in fields such as robotics, big data, climate research and drug discovery.”

Justin Hotard, executive vice president and general manager of HPC, AI and laboratories at HPE, said: “Today’s announcement of the UK’s significant investment in AI supercomputing underlines its commitment to taking a global leadership position in AI. The system Isambard-AI will leverage world-leading supercomputing, including high-performance networks co-developed at HPE laboratories in Bristol, to provide the performance and scale needed for compute-intensive AI projects. We are proud to partner with the government from the UK and the University of Bristol to give UK researchers and industry access to Europe’s largest AI system for open science.”

Ian Buck, vice president of Hyperscale and HPC at NVIDIA, said: “By building one of the world’s fastest AI supercomputers, the UK is demonstrating the importance of nations creating their own infrastructure. Isambard-AI will provide researchers “The same state. Cutting-edge AI and HPC computing resources used by the world’s leading AI pioneers, enabling the UK to usher in the next wave of AI and scientific breakthroughs.”

The government’s new Frontier AI Taskforce will have priority access to support its work to mitigate the risks posed by more advanced forms of AI, including national security from the development of biological weapons and cyber attacks. The resource will also support the work of the AI ​​Safety Institute as it develops a research program analyzing the safety of cutting-edge AI models and supports government policy with this analysis.

Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “Frontier AI models are becoming exponentially more powerful. At our AI Security Summit at Bletchley Park, we made it clear that Britain is seizing the opportunity.” By leading the world in safely adopting this technology, we can put it to work and live healthier, easier, longer lives.

“This means giving Britain’s top researchers and scientific talent access to the tools they need to delve deeper into how this complicated technology works. That’s why we’re investing in building the UK’s supercomputers, ensuring we cement our place as world leader in AI security.

Isambard-AI will be hosted in a self-contained, self-cooled data center, using HPE’s Performance Optimized Data Center (POD), and will be located at the National Composites Center (NCC), based in Bristol and Bath Science Park. . NCC is one of seven research centers across the UK that form the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, helping to turn big ideas into reality by providing access to world-class research and development facilities and expertise that would otherwise be out of reach. from many companies in the UK. UNITED KINGDOM.

Richard Oldfield, chief executive of the National Composites Centre, said: “We are immensely proud to host Isambard-AI at the National Composites Centre. This supports our vision of bringing together world-class innovators, academic researchers and cutting-edge technology to solve some of the world’s most complex engineering challenges.

“Building on our cutting-edge expertise and ability to accelerate industrial transformation from fundamental research to industrial application, we are excited to be home to the UK’s national AI supercomputing facility.”

The first phase of the system, available in March 2024, will use Isambard 3, a TOP500-class supercomputer service for artificial intelligence and high-performance computing (HPC). It is due to be installed at the NCC in early 2024 and was developed in collaboration with the GW4 group of universities, an alliance formed by the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. It will offer early access to UK scientists, researchers and developers so their research can begin as soon as possible.

GW4 Alliance Director Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE said: “Isambard-AI builds on the success of the GW4 Isambard supercomputer, which began as a GW4 collaborative research community and was the world’s first Arm-based computer. to enter production use. Through GW4 Isambard, we have already seen advances in research in vital areas such as Parkinson’s disease, osteoporosis and supporting patients with heart failure.

“I am delighted that the strength and innovation of GW4 Isambard, and the importance of supporting academic and industrial collaboration, have helped enable this new national artificial intelligence research resource, which will boost the digital growth and AI capabilities of the country”.

More information

Isambard-AI will be built using the HPE Cray EX supercomputer, a next-generation platform designed to support unprecedented performance and scale, and will consist of 5,448 NVIDIA GH200 Grace Hopper superchips that combine NVIDIA’s Arm-based Grace CPU with a GPU optimized based on Hopper. for power efficiency and AI at a giant scale, along with the latest HPE Slingshot 11 interconnect and nearly 25 petabytes of storage using the Cray Clusterstor E1000 optimized for AI workflows.

When in production, Isambard-AI will achieve over 200 PetaFLOP/s using Top500’s Linpack benchmark, while achieving over 21 ExaFLOP/s of AI performance to accelerate large-scale AI training, such as large language models.

This represents a massive 10x improvement over the next fastest system in the UK when Isambard-AI is live, and will enable Isambard-AI to perform over 21 quintillion AI-optimized floating point operations per second.

Isambard-AI will also feature sophisticated direct liquid cooling capabilities as part of the HPE Cray EX supercomputer design to improve power efficiency and overall carbon footprint impact. The system will be hosted in a self-contained, self-cooled data center, using HPE’s Performance Optimized Data Center (POD), and will be located at the National Composites Center (NCC), based in Bristol and Bath Science Park. . HPE is also collaborating with the University of Bristol on a highly energy efficient heat reuse model, extracting waste heat from the Isambard-AI system to use as renewable energy to heat local buildings, supporting net zero carbon efficiency targets for 2030. 2040 as provided by the UK Government.

Bristol is one of the UK’s top universities for AI research and scientific computing. It is already home to cutting-edge computing technology, including the previously announced Isambard 3 supercomputer, while also hosting UKRI’s Center for Doctoral Training in Interactive Artificial Intelligence and the recently announced UKRI AI Center for Doctoral Training in Practice-Oriented Artificial Intelligence .

About Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (NYSE: HPE) is the global edge-to-cloud company that helps organizations accelerate results by unlocking value from all their data, everywhere. Built on decades of reimagining the future and innovating to improve the way people live and work, HPE delivers unique, open and intelligent technology solutions as a service. With offerings spanning cloud services, compute, high-performance computing and artificial intelligence, intelligent edge, software and storage, HPE delivers a consistent experience across clouds and edges, helping customers develop new business models, engage in new ways and increase operational performance. For more information, visit: www.hpe.com.

*Please note that the relationship between the University of Bristol and HPE remains contractual.

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