ISC: Nvidia Grace Superchips to power new U.K. supercomputer

While semiconductor companies are facing wildly fluctuating demand in markets like data centers and PCs, the unmitigated demand for new supercomputers has been easier to trust. Nvidia has been a part of many of these projects, and this week at the International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg, Germany, announced yet another.

The Swiss National Supercomputing Centre and the Los Alamos National Laboratory have been sites of recent supercomputer builds involving Nvidia and the Bristol & Bath Science Park in the U.K. is the latest target. The Isambard 3 supercomputer is a collaboration with the University of Bristol, in concert with the Universities of Bath, Cardiff, and Exeter, and is being built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise. It is expected to be in production mode by the spring of 2024.

Isambard 3 will feature 384 Arm Neoverse-based Nvidia Grace CPU Superchips–accounting for more than 55,000 Neoverse V2 cores–to power medical and scientific research. The Isambard 3 is expected to deliver 2.7 perflops of performance about 6x the university’s Isambard 2, placing it among Europe’s most energy-efficient systems, according to Ian Buck, vice president of hyperscale and HPC at Nvidia.

“And what's really exciting is the whole thing will operate at only 270 kilowatts of power. So that's actually six times more performance and energy efficiency than the university's previous system,” Buck said during a media briefing prior to this week’s conference. He added that Isambard 3 will rank among the top three “greenest” non-accelerated supercomputers in the world.

The new supercomputer will enable Europe’s scientific research community to supercharge breakthroughs in AI, life sciences, medical, astrophysics and biotech, Nvidia said. 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. Isambard 3 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.”