Dell Technologies, Intel and the University of Cambridge have deployed the co-designed Dawn Phase 1 supercomputer.

Dawn kickstarts the recently launched UK AI Research Resource (AIRR), which will explore the viability of associated systems and architectures. Dawn brings the UK closer to reaching the compute threshold of a quintillion (1018) floating point operations per second – one exaflop, better known as exascale. For perspective: Every person on earth would have to make calculations 24 hours a day for more than four years to equal a second’s worth of processing power in an exascale system.

“Dawn considerably strengthens the scientific and AI compute capability available in the UK, and it’s on the ground, operational today at the Cambridge Open Zettascale Lab,” says Adam Roe, EMEA HPC technical director at Intel. “Dell PowerEdge XE9640 servers offer a no-compromises platform to host the Intel Data Center GPU Max Series accelerator, which opens up the ecosystem to choice through oneAPI.

“I’m very excited to see the sorts of early science this machine can deliver and continue to strengthen the Open Zettascale Lab partnership between Dell Technologies, Intel and the University of Cambridge, and further broaden that to the UK scientific and AI community.”

Dawn is the fastest AI supercomputer deployed in the UK today and will support some of the the country’s largest-ever workloads across both academic research and industrial domains. Usage domains include healthcare, engineering, green fusion energy, climate modelling and frontier science within cosmology and high-energy physics.

“Dawn Phase 1 represents a huge step forward in AI and simulation capability for the UK, deployed and ready to use now,” says Dr Paul Calleja, director of Research Computing Services at the University of Cambridge. “The system plays an important role within a larger context, where this co-design activity aims to deliver a Phase 2 supercomputer in 2024 which will boast 10 times the level of performance. If taken forward, Dawn Phase 2 would significantly boost the UK AI capability and continue this successful industry partnership.”

Dawn Phase 1 and the already announced Isambard AI supercomputer (see following article) will join to form the AIRR, a UK national facility to help researchers maximise the potential of AI and support critical work into the potential and safe use of the technology. Dawn, supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will vastly increase the country’s AI and simulation compute capacity for both fundamental research and industrial use cases, accelerating research discovery and driving growth within the UK knowledge economy.

The new supercomputer is based on Dell PowerEdge XE9640 servers. With its versatile configuration options and liquid cooling technology, the server system is well-equipped to handle the demands of AI and HPC workloads. Direct liquid cooling technology provides a more efficient and cost-effective solution than traditional air-cooled systems.

“Collaborations like the one between the University of Cambridge, Dell Technologies and Intel, alongside strong inward investment, are vital if we want compute to unlock the high-growth AI potential of the UK,” says Tariq Hussain, head of UK Public Sector at Dell Technologies. “It is paramount that the government invests in the right technologies and infrastructure to ensure the UK leads in AI and exascale-class simulation capability. It’s also important to embrace the full spectrum of the technology ecosystem, including GPU diversity, to ensure customers can tackle the growing demands of generative AI, industrial simulation modelling and ground-breaking scientific research.”

Each PowerEdge XE9640 server in this system combines two 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors and four Intel Data Center GPU Max accelerators to deliver strong performance and high efficiency for solving real-world scientific problems. The Scientific OpenStack from UK SME StackHPC provides a fully AI- and simulation-optimised cloud supercomputing software environment. This is combined with the oneAPI open software ecosystem and optimised frameworks that help developers speed up AI and HPC workloads and enhance code portability across multiple hardware architectures.


Featured picture: Paul Calleja (left), director of Dawn AI Service, and Richard McMahon, UKRI Dawn principal investigator, with the Dawn supercomputer