UK’s most powerful supercomputer is officially online and debuts in global league

The UK’s fastest and most powerful supercomputer, located at the University of Bristol, is now officially online, with pioneering technology helping to make the UK a world leader in artificial intelligence.

As it goes live, the multimillion Isambard-AI has appeared in the global power rankings for the fastest speed and is now officially the most sustainable supercomputer in the UK. It is second greenest in the world, as it shoots into the top two of the Green500.

Scientists will soon be able to use the world-class equipment for research that has not been possible in the UK until now, with organisations such as the UK’s AI Safety Institute expected to be amongst the first to harness its capabilities for AI research from this month.

The new Bristol Isambard-AI facility will be used by a wide range of organisations from across the UK to utilise the power of AI, which is already propelling emerging technologies such as training large language models (LLMs), healthcare and robotics. The supercomputer will also play an essential role in critical areas such as AI safety, accelerating automated drug discovery and climate research.

With the latest technologies, including HPE Slingshot 11 interconnect and direct liquid cooling solutions with highly-integrated, heterogeneous CPU-GPU systems from NVIDIA, it is one of the most efficient supercomputers that has ever been built.

Bristol’s Isambard-AI phase one has also appeared at position 128 in the latest edition of the TOP500 list of high-performance computing (HPC) systems on Earth, as published at the ISC High Performance 2024 event in Hamburg, Germany.

“It is exciting to see Isambard-AI entering the first stage of its journey to deliver Europe’s largest AI system for open science and propel the UK as a global leader in AI,” said Matt Harris, managing director for UK, Ireland, Middle East and Africa at HPE. “With AI progressing at rapid pace, we are proud to have delivered the system in a record time, with just 3 months between concept design and the system going live. This unique supercomputer is the centrepiece of the UK Government’s AI Research Resource and will enable organisations like the AI Safety Institute to train generative AI models at scale with research outcomes expected as soon as May this year.”

University of Bristol’s Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Evelyn Welch said: “With Isambard-AI phase one turned on, and primed for action later this month, we welcome this huge step forward towards providing UK researchers with world-class AI and HPC resources, until now accessible by few.

“This will equip the UK with the means to drive the next wave of scientific breakthroughs and positions Bristol as a vital cog in global technological discovery that will improve people’s lives.”