Nvidia and Bristol University build Arm-based supercomputer

It will achieve about 2.7 petaflops of FP64 peak performance and consume less than 270 kilowatts of power, ranking it among the world’s three greenest non-accelerated supercomputers.

The project is being led by the University of Bristol, as part of the research consortium the GW4 Alliance, together with the universities of Bath, Cardiff and Exeter.

Isambard 3 joins a growing wave of NVIDIA Arm-based supercomputers around the world, with additional systems that include GPUs being built at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the U.S.

“As climate change becomes an increasingly existential problem, it’s vital for computing to embrace energy-efficient technologies,” said Ian Buck, vice president of hyperscale and HPC at NVIDIA. “NVIDIA is working alongside the Arm Neoverse ecosystem to provide a path forward for the creation of more energy-efficient supercomputing centers, driving important breakthroughs in scientific and industrial research.”

“From climate change to medicine, supercomputing is already enabling academic and industry leaders to take on some of the world’s biggest challenges,” said Mohamed Awad, senior vice president and general manager of infrastructure at Arm. “Expanding on important areas of research requires a level of performance and energy efficiency that Arm Neoverse uniquely delivers, and through our collaboration with NVIDIA, we’re proud to bring this to life in the Isambard 3 system.”

Isambard 3, to be built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, will enable Europe’s scientific research community to supercharge breakthroughs in AI, life sciences, medical, astrophysics and biotech. It will be able to create detailed models of exceptionally complex structures, such as wind farms and fusion reactors, to help researchers unlock new advances in clean and green energy.

The Arm-based NVIDIA Grace-powered system will also continue Isambard 2’s work of simulating molecular-level mechanisms to better understand Parkinson’s disease and find new treatments for osteoporosis and COVID-19. These compute-intensive applications benefit from the highest-performing cores, highest memory bandwidth and the optimal memory capacity per core provided by Grace.

“Isambard 3’s application performance efficiency of up to 6x its predecessor, which rivals many of the 50 fastest TOP500 systems, will provide scientists with a revolutionary new supercomputing platform to advance groundbreaking research,” said Simon McIntosh-Smith, principal investigator for the Isambard project and professor of HPC at the University of Bristol. “The Arm-based NVIDIA Grace CPU enables the breakthrough energy efficiency required to push the boundaries of scientific discovery and solve some of humanity’s most difficult challenges.”

Once the system goes into production in spring 2024, Bristol expects the number of registered users to increase significantly beyond the current 800.

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