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HPE to build Isambard-AI national supercomputer


Mark Say Managing Editor

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National Composites Centre
Image source: National Composites Centre

The new government funded supercomputer will be built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and connected to a cluster at the University of Cambridge.

The University of Bristol, which will host the Isambard-AI supercomputer at its National Composites Centre (NCC), has announced details of the facility, aimed at making the UK a world leader in AI.

It is being supported by a £225 million investment as part of a £300 million package to create a new Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (AIIR).

HPE will build Isambard-AI with the next generation HPE Cray EX supercomputers and over 5,000 NVDIA GH200 superchips, which will provide the capacity to produce up to 200 quadrillion (one followed by 15 zeros) calculations per second, 10 times the rate of the next fastest system in the UK.

The supercomputer will be hosted in a self-cooled, self-contained data centre, using the HPE Performance Optimised Data Centre, at the NCC.

It will also connect with a new supercomputer cluster named Dawn at the University of Cambridge to provide additional capacity.

Wide use

Phase one is scheduled to become available in March 2024. The new facility will be used by a wide range of organisations and contribute to work in areas such as automated drug discovery and climate research.

The new Frontier AI Taskforce will have priority access to support its work in mitigating risks posed by the most advanced form of AI. The resource will also support of the work of the AI Safety Institute.

Professor Simon McIntosh-Smith, director of the Isambard National Research Facility at the University of Bristol, said: "Isambard-AI represents a huge leap forward for AI computational power in the UK. Today Isambard-AI would rank within the top 10 fastest supercomputers in the world and, when in operation later in 2024, it will be one of the most powerful AI systems for open science anywhere.

"It's 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 large scale research computing infrastructure to create one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. Isambard-AI will offer capacity never seen before 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."

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