Isambard AI supercomputer goes online

Isambard AI supercomputer goes online

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty


The UK’S fastest and most powerful supercomputer, temporarily located in the car park at the Bristol and Bath Science park, is officially online.

A £225m investment from the UK Government last autumn funded a modular, liquid cooled  HPE Cray EX2500 supercomputer and 168 NVIDIA GH200 Grace Hopper superchips.

“Isambard-AI phase one signifies the start of the Isambard-AI service. When the remaining 5,280 GPUs arrive at the National Composites Centre (NCC) later in the summer, it will increase the performance by a factor of 32,” said Professor Simon McIntosh-Smith, Director of the Bristol Centre for Supercomputing at the University of Bristol.

The phase one system provides performance of around 7.4 PFLOP/s for the supercomputer and at 647 PFLOP/s of INT8 8bit calculations for AI with a power consumption of 68.83 GFlops/W. The cooling helps Isambard AI rank as the second greenest in the world as listed in the Green500 listing out today. It is also number 129 in the latest edition of the TOP500 list of high-performance computing (HPC).

“With AI progressing at rapid pace, we are proud to have delivered the system in a record time, with just 3 months between concept design and the system going live,” said Matt Harris, managing director for UK, Ireland, Middle East and Africa at HPE.  “This unique supercomputer is the centrepiece of the UK Government’s AI Research Resource and will enable organisations like the AI Safety Institute to train generative AI models at scale with research outcomes expected as soon as May this year.”

“With Isambard-AI phase one turned on, and primed for action later this month, we welcome this huge step forward towards providing UK researchers with world-class AI and HPC resources, until now accessible by few,” said Professor Evelyn Welch, University of Bristol’s Vice-Chancellor and President.

“This will equip the UK with the means to drive the next wave of scientific breakthroughs and positions Bristol as a vital cog in global technological discovery that will improve people’s lives.” 

Professor Judith Squires, Provost and Deputy Vice Chancellor, who joined a Government delegation to the Isambard-AI site, said: “The speed with which this project is being delivered is testament to the expertise and ambition of our hard-working HPC and AI teams here at the University.

“The arrival of Isambard-AI phase one, builds on Bristol’s reputation in AI research and training; home to two Centres for Doctoral Training in AI, as well as two new national AI research hubs, our state-of-the-art capabilities will enable us to push the boundaries of scientific research to make breakthroughs that will benefit everyone.”

The Isambard 3 supercomputer is due to be installed later this summer to support a broad range of scientific research.

The University is also home to two Centres for Doctoral Training in AI: the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Interactive Artificial Intelligence and The UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training In Practice-Oriented Artificial Intelligence; as well as two new national AI research hubs: The AI for Collective Intelligence Hub and The Mathematical and Computational Foundations of AI – Information theory for distributed AI Hub.;


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