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Cray to Develop ARM-based Isambard Supercomputer for UK Met Office

The GW4 Alliance, together with Cray and the UK Met Office, has been awarded £3m by EPSRC to deliver a new Tier 2 HPC service for UK-based scientists. This unique new service, named ‘Isambard’ after the renowned Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, will provide multiple advanced architectures within the same system in order to enable evaluation and comparison across a diverse range of hardware platforms.

The team will unveil the Isambard project at the Mont-Blanc HPC conference in Barcelona today, in front of an audience of leading academics and organizations including the European Commission. Key Isambard specifications include:

  • 10,000+ ARMv8 64-bit cores
  • Cray CS-400 format
  • Cray HPC software stack
  • EDR IB interconnect

‘This is an exciting time in high-performance computing,’ said Prof Simon McIntosh-Smith, leader of the project and Professor of High Performance Computing at the University of Bristol. ‘Scientists have a growing choice of potential computer architectures to choose from, including new 64-bit ARM CPUs, graphics processors, and many-core CPUs from Intel. Choosing the best architecture for an application can be a difficult task, so the new Isambard GW4 Tier 2 HPC service aims to provide access to a wide range of the most promising emerging architectures, all using the same software stack. Isambard is a unique system that will enable direct ‘apples-to-apples’ comparisons across architectures, thus enabling UK scientists to better understand which architecture best suits their application.’

Professor Nick Talbot, Chair of the Board for the GW4 Alliance and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University of Exeter, said: ‘We are delighted to collaborate with respected industry partners Cray and the Met Office on this multi-million-pound project, which will benefit scientists across the UK. This is a clear example of how GW4 can harness the strengths of its universities and industrial partners across the region to produce pioneering solutions to some of our greatest global challenges.’

The GW4 Isambard project exemplifies university-industry collaboration and the world-leading capability of the South West England and South East Wales region in digital innovation, in-line with the findings of the recent Science and Innovation Audit.

‘At Cray, our mission is to help our customers solve the most demanding technical and scientific problems, and we are constantly evaluating new technologies that can help achieve that,’ said Adrian Tate, director of Cray’s EMEA Research Lab. ‘We are excited to be a part of this important collaboration with GW4 and the Met Office as we work together to explore and evaluate diverse processing technologies within a unified architecture. By building a Centre of Excellence with GW4 and technology partners, we expect deep insights into application efficiency using new processing technologies, and we relish the opportunity to share these insights with the UK scientific community.’

Paul Selwood, Manager for HPC Optimization at the Met Office said: ‘The Met Office is very excited to be involved with this project, which builds on existing collaborations with both Cray and the GW4 Alliance. This system will enable us, in co-operation with our partners, to accelerate insights into how our weather and climate models need to be adapted for these emerging CPU architectures.’

Established in 2013, the GW4 Alliance brings together four leading research-intensive universities: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, and Exeter. It aims to strengthen the economy across the region through undertaking pioneering research with industry partners.

This story appears here as part of a cross-publishing agreement with insideHPC.


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