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GW4, the Met Office, and Cray Power Up the Largest Arm-Based Supercomputer in Europe

“Isambard” Supercomputer to Be Used for Scientific Research and Building the Next Generation of Computing Technology in the Exascale Era

SEATTLE, Nov. 11, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- GW4, the Met Office and global supercomputer leader Cray Inc. (Nasdaq:CRAY) today announced that the Arm®-based supercomputer in Europe, named “Isambard,” is now live in the United Kingdom. It is the largest Arm-based system in the world outside of the U.S. and one of the first systems of its kind to be used for scientific research as well as to explore future computer architectures in the exascale era. Isambard is a Cray XC50™ system with Marvell ThunderX2™ processors based on the 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture and was designed by the GW4 Alliance in partnership with Cray and the Met Office.

Isambard, named after famous 19th-century British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, will be part of the EPSRC-funded Tier-2 High-Performance Computing ecosystem in the UK and leveraged by EPSRC-funded researchers as well as various labs within the GW4 Alliance – a coalition of four leading, research-intensive universities in the UK (Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter).

“The Isambard project was first conceived in early 2016 and we’re delighted to be nearing the production phase of our journey towards real Arm-based supercomputing,” said Professor Simon McIntosh-Smith, the principal investigator for the Isambard project and a professor of high-performance computing at the University of Bristol. “Isambard represents the first of what we expect will become a growing number of production supercomputers that will exploit Arm-based processors. These will deliver significant benefits in terms of price/performance and faster product innovation thanks to increased competition in the market.”

The GW4 Alliance and the Met Office partnered with Cray to design Isambard because of the flexibility the Cray XC50 system offers when integrated with Arm processors. Cray’s high-quality system software, including compilers, math libraries and performance analysis tools developed for Arm processors, also played a crucial role in choosing Cray to deliver the Isambard system.

“The Cray XC50 system was purpose-built for running today’s most challenging supercomputing, data analytics and AI workloads requiring sustained multi-petaflop performance,” said Steve Scott, CTO at Cray. “This flexible Arm-based production supercomputer provides researchers a full software environment, Arm-optimized compilers, libraries, tools and the computational performance they need to successfully get the job done.”

“With production deployments of Arm-based systems in key HPC environments now underway, Arm is proud to work with the GW4 Alliance to support its Isambard users at all stages of application development and testing,” said Brent Gorda, senior director of HPC, Infrastructure Line of Business, Arm. “Our ongoing collaboration has further expanded the Arm HPC software ecosystem, shown great performance results for prevalent HPC applications, and helped enable a larger variety of architecture options for the HPC community.”

“The Met Office is proud of being both the host for Isambard, and a fully contributing member of the project,” said Paul Selwood, Principal Fellow in Supercomputing at the Met Office. “We are really excited to see competitive early performance on the Met Office’s key weather forecast and climate prediction codes and look forward to improving this further as we gain more experience with the system.”

Isambard System Details
The liquid-cooled Cray XC50 includes the Cray-developed Aries™ interconnect with Dragonfly topology. Each node includes two Marvell Arm ThunderX2 32-core, 2.1 GHz processors and 16 GB DDR4-2666 dual-rank DIMMs, for a total of 256 GB DRAM per node. The system configuration includes 164 compute nodes and 10,496 cores.

Cray XC50 and Arm
Cray XC50 supercomputers with the Marvell ThunderX2 processors are available in both liquid-cooled cabinets and air-cooled cabinets to address a variety of datacenter needs. Compute blades can be mixed and matched with Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, Intel® Xeon Phi™ processors, and NVIDIA® Tesla® GPU accelerators.  Cray customers get a complete Arm-based supercomputer that features a full software environment, including the Cray Linux® Environment and the Cray Programming Environment.

About the GW4 Alliance
The GW4 Alliance brings together four of the most research-intensive and innovative universities in the UK: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. From the creative arts to the physical sciences, the GW4 Alliance has world-leading scholarship, infrastructure and faculty. The GW4 Alliance has a combined turnover of over £1.8bn, employs over 8,000 staff and trains over 23,000 postgraduate students. The GW4 Alliance aims to cultivate the regional economy, develop a highly skilled workforce and enhance the research and innovation ecosystem for the South West England and South East Wales region. For more information about GW4 see or follow @GW4Alliance.

About Met Office
The Met Office is the UK's national weather service. It provides weather and climate-related services to the Armed Forces, government departments, the public, civil aviation, shipping, industry, agriculture and commerce.

About Cray Inc.
Cray Inc. (Nasdaq:CRAY) combines computation and creativity so visionaries can keep asking questions that challenge the limits of possibility. Drawing on more than 45 years of experience, Cray develops the world’s most advanced supercomputers, pushing the boundaries of performance, efficiency and scalability. Cray continues to innovate today at the convergence of data and discovery, offering a comprehensive portfolio of supercomputers, high-performance storage, data analytics and artificial intelligence solutions.  Go to for more information.

CRAY is a registered trademark of Cray Inc. in the United States and other countries, and XC50 is a trademark of Cray Inc. Other product and service names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

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