GW4 world-first supercomputer launched at national exhibition

30 March 2017

Man inspecting of supercomputers

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

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.

One of the largest machines of its kind anywhere in the world

Brunel in front of chains
Isambard Kingdom Brunel

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..."

Roger Whitaker

"This represents a major breakthrough for the UK. Supercomputing capabilities of this nature are critical in supporting the UK’s industrial strategy and our international competitiveness."

Professor Roger Whitaker, College Dean of Research
Professor of Mobile and Biosocial Computing
Supercomputer Isambard delivery to Met Office

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…”

Martyn Guest

"We’re really excited by the prospect of greater performance and science throughput, and providing a service to the community that enables algorithm development and the porting and optimisation of scientific codes from areas such as computational chemistry, materials and engineering."

Professor Martyn Guest, Director of Advanced Research Computing

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 have been delighted to work with partners Cray Inc and the Met Office on this project, which has demonstrated how GW4’s collaborative ethos can produce truly world-leading outcomes..."

"Isambard exemplifies our region’s expertise in advanced engineering and digital innovation, and we hope it could provide the blueprint for a new era of supercomputing worldwide."

Professor Nick Talbot, Chair of the Board for the GW4 Alliance and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University of Exeter

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.

Bringing together four of the most research-intensive and innovative universities in the UK; the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.