GW4 world-first supercomputer launched at national exhibition

The supercomputer, known as Isambard, is being developed by GW4 researchers in collaboration with the Met Office and Cray Inc with a £3 million Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) award.

The GW4 Alliance, which consists of the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter and Caridff, 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, £3 million 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.

Technical lead and Hebron and Medlock Professor of Information Technology at the University of Bath, James Davenport, said: "We are delighted to be part of this initiative. By teaming up, the universities can deliver a service that none could deliver individually.

"We are also working with other partners in the South West, such as the Met Office and Cray’s European HQ. These partnerships also strengthen our links with ARM, the world’s most prolific CPU designer.

"I recently visited one of our placement students at ARM and saw first-hand the exciting developments that ARM are bringing to the world of scientific 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, added: "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."

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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