UK’s fastest AI supercomputer now operational in Cambridge

Dawn is capable of delivering 19 petaflops of FP64 performance

An AI supercomputer with enough power to help researchers solve the world’s most complex challenges is now up and running in Cambridge.

Based at the University of Cambridge’s Open Zettascale Lab, the supercomputer, Dawn, is the result of a long-term co-design partnership between the Cambridge Open Zettascale Lab, directed by Dr Paul Calleja, and global tech leaders Intel and Dell Technologies, with support from the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and UK Research & Innovation.

Dawn is powered by more than 1,000 Intel Data Center GPU Max Series chips and more than 500 Intel Xeon CPUs, delivering 19 petaflops of FP64 performance.

Scientists involved in research fields including fusion energy, healthcare, and climate modelling are now harnessing Dawn’s power to explore incredible possibilities, such as designing the UK’s prototype fusion energy power plant. It is thought that, if fusion can be harnessed economically on Earth, it will provide a near-limitless form of clean, safe electricity.

“However, delivering fusion energy is one of the biggest scientific and engineering challenges of current times,” says Dr Rob Akers, Director of Computing Programmes at UKAEA. “A fusion power plant is a very strongly coupled, very complex piece of machinery – it has to be to contain the conditions of a star down here on Earth.

“So, to meet the demanding timeline to deliver these power plants for the Net Zero era, we must design the plant ‘in silico’, that is in the virtual world, using supercomputing and AI.”

Dawn will eventually connect with the Isambard-AI cluster, another supercomputer located at the University of Bristol’s National Composites Centre, as part of the government’s AI Research Resource.

Dr. Paul Calleja, Director of Research Computing Services at the University of Cambridge, explained how vital Dawn is for scientific research: “The UK needs leading-edge computational resources so that its research community can compete on the global stage. Nowadays, science uses simulation and AI as the main driving forces to accelerate that discovery process. Without the computer, without the AI capability, science is held back. With these capabilities, we can push the discovery process 10 times or 100 times faster than without them.”

Dawn, as it stands, is just the start, with the AI supercomputer set to get even faster and more powerful.

“We are aiming to deliver a Phase 2 Dawn which will boast 10 times the level of performance,” added Calleja. “If taken forward, Dawn Phase 2 will significantly boost the UK’s AI capability and continue this successful industry partnership.”

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