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Phase one of Isambard-AI launches into Top500 and Green500

Phase one of Isambard-AI launches into Top500 and Green500

Isambard-AI, the UK’s most powerful supercomputer, has appeared in the global power rankings for the fastest, and is now officially the most sustainable, supercomputer in the UK. It is second greenest in the world as it shoots into the top two of the Green500.

The announcement comes as phase one of the multimillion supercomputer, which is being temporarily housed in Isambard 3’s Modular Data Centre, officially goes live.

Isambard-AI builds on the success of GW4 Isambard, which started life as a collaborative GW4 research community, across the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter, and was the world’s first Arm-based supercomputer to go into production use.

GW4 subsequently secured £10m in funding from UKRI in 2023 to develop Isambard 3, which is due to be installed later this year, to support a broad range of scientific research, including in clean energy, modelling optimal configuration of wind farms on both land and water, and modelling fusion reactors to provide green energy in the future.

Launching ahead of Isambard 3, the new Isambard-AI facility, led by the University of Bristol, will be used by a wide range of organisations from across the UK to utilise the power of AI, which is already propelling emerging technologies such as training large language models (LLMs), healthcare and robotics. The supercomputer will also play an essential role in critical areas such as AI safety, accelerating automated drug discovery and climate research.

With the latest technologies, including HPE Slingshot 11 interconnect and direct liquid cooling solutions with highly-integrated, heterogeneous CPU-GPU systems from NVIDIA, it is one of the most efficient supercomputers that has ever been built.

Phase one of Isambard-AI has also appeared at position 129 in the latest edition of the TOP500 list of high-performance computing (HPC) systems on Earth, as published at the ISC High Performance 2024 event in Hamburg, Germany.

University of Bristol’s Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Evelyn Welch said: “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.

“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 Simon McIntosh-Smith, Director of the Bristol Centre for Supercomputing at the University of Bristol, explained: “Assuming there are eight billion people on earth, and everyone performed one calculation per second, it would take 2.3 years for all eight billion people, working 24/7, 365-days a year, to do what Isambard-AI phase one could do in one second.

“That’s a pretty astounding performance, even though we can pack it into a relatively small space.

“Isambard-AI phase 1 signifies the start of the Isambard-AI service. When the remaining 5,280 GPUs arrive at the University’s National Composites Centre (NCC) later in the summer, it will increase the performance by a factor of 32.”

GW4 Alliance Director, Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, said: “We are delighted to witness the continued success of Isambard-AI, and welcome the exciting launch of phase one of this revolutionary supercomputer, which will supercharge the nation’s AI capabilities.

“I am thrilled that collaborating across the Alliance, on the earlier GW4 Isambard, helped to lay the foundations for Isambard-AI and I applaud its inclusion in the Top500 and Green500. Across GW4, we are also looking forward to Isambard 3 coming online later this year.”

*Image of Isambard-AI Phase One. Image courtesy of Christy Nunn and the University of Bristol.

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter