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World-first supercomputer

31 March 2017

The GW4 Alliance unveiled the world’s first ARM-based production supercomputer at the Thinktank science museum in Birmingham.

World-first supercomputer (Credit: Cardiff University)

The EPSRC awarded the GW4 Alliance, together with Cray Inc. and the Met Office, £3m to deliver a new Tier 2 high performance computing (HPC) service that will benefit scientists across the UK.

The supercomputer, named ‘Isambard’ after the renowned Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, will enable researchers to choose the best hardware system for their specific scientific problem, saving time and money.

Isambard is able to provide system comparison at high speed as it includes over 10,000, high-performance 64-bit ARM cores, making it one of the largest machines of its kind anywhere in the world.

It is thought that the supercomputer, which has already received international acclaim, could provide the template for a new generation of ARM-based services.

Isambard is being assembled at its new home, the Met Office, where EPS and climate scientists will work together to gain first-hand insights into how their scientific codes need to be adapted to emerging computational architectures.

Professor Roger Whitaker, Dean of Research for the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering and Professor of Mobile and Biosocial Computing at Cardiff University, said: "This Tier 2 facility will allow researchers to experiment with new architectures and gain a first-hand understanding of complex performance issues."

Professor Martyn Guest, Director of Advanced Research Computing at Cardiff University, said: “The current shift in computing architectures provides an exciting opportunity for science, an opportunity that can be informed through an assessment of the impact of architecture on the performance of key application codes.” 

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.

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