21 ExaFLOP Isambard-AI Supercomputer Uses 5,448 GH200 Grace Hopper Superchips

The U.K. government on Wednesday unveiled the country’s most powerful supercomputer to date, the Isambard-AI. The machine, which is set to be built by HPE, cost £225 million ($273.38 million) and uses over 5,000 of Nvidia’s GH200 Grace Hopper Superchip units to deliver around 200 FP64 PetaFLOPS performance, which is enough to make it the world’s fifth highest-performing supercomputer. The system will be installed at the National Composites Centre (NCC) located in the Bristol and Bath Science Park.

The Isambard-AI will rely on the HPE Cray EX architecture and will incorporate 5,448 NVIDIA GH200 Grace Hopper Superchips, which combine Nvidia’s Arm-based 72-core Grace CPU with a Hopper-based GH100 AI and HPC GPU. But there is no word whether the machine will use GH200 with 96 GB HBM3 memory or GH200 with 141GB HBM3E memory.

The supercomputer will also feature nearly 25 petabytes of storage, using the Cray Clusterstor E1000 as well as HPE Slingshot 11 interconnect. To cool down Nvidia’s GH200 Grace Hopper processors, Isambard-AI will use advanced direct liquid-cooling technology with a thermal re-use model that will heat local buildings. 

As far as performance is concerned, Isambard-AI is expected to achieve over 200 FP64 PetaFLOPS for high-performance computing that requires accurate calculations and simulations, and will also deliver over 21 ExaFLOPS for AI inference and training workloads that use lower precision. Performance of the supercomputer represents a tenfold improvement over the U.K.’s previous fastest supercomputer, according to Nvidia

“Isambard-AI represents a huge leap forward for AI computational power in the U.K.,” said Simon McIntosh-Smith, a Bristol professor and director of the Isambard National Research Facility. “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.” 

The creation of Isambard-AI aims to position the U.K. as a global leader in AI technology and research. In addition to spending £225 million ($273.38 million) on the machine, the U.K. government will spend another £75 million ($91.095 million) on the creation of the national Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (AIRR) center. 

“In building one of the world’s fastest AI supercomputers, the UK is demonstrating the importance for nations to create their own infrastructure,” said Ian Buck, vice president of Hyperscale and HPC at Nvidia. “Isambard-AI will provide researchers with the same state-of-the-art AI and HPC compute resources used by the world’s leading AI pioneers, enabling the UK to introduce the next wave of AI and scientific breakthroughs.”

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