U.S. chipmaker Nvidia pledged on Monday that it would build a new $52 million supercomputer in the U.K.
The supercomputer, which is called “Cambridge-1," is expected to come online by year's end. The supercomputer was designed to use artificial intelligence (AI) for healthcare research, which would include Covid-19.
The supercomputer will be an NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD system capable of delivering more than 400 petaflops of AI performance and 8 petaflops of Linpack performance, which Nvidia said would rank it No. 29 on the latest top-500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. It will also rank among the world’s top-three most energy-efficient supercomputers on the current Green500 list. It will be the most powerful supercomputer in Britain.
Among the first pharmaceutical companies to tap into Cambridge-1 for research will be GSK and AstraZeneca. Researchers from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London and Oxford Nanopore Technologies plan to use it as well.
“Tackling the world’s most pressing challenges in healthcare requires massively powerful computing resources to harness the capabilities of AI,” said Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of NVIDIA, in his GPU Technology Conference keynote. “The Cambridge-1 supercomputer will serve as a hub of innovation for the U.K., and further the groundbreaking work being done by the nation’s researchers in critical healthcare and drug discovery.”
Using a modular design, Nvidia said the supercomputer could be set up in weeks using 80 Nvidia DGX A100 systems that are connected by DGX Mellanox InfiniBand networking. Nvidia wrapped up its $6.9 billion deal to buy chipmaker Mellanox earlier this year.
When it first announced its was buying Arm for $40 billion last month Nvidia said it would create an AI Center of Excellence in Cambridge, England, which seemed to be one way of allaying fears that Arm would have a lesser presence in the U.K. if the deal went through.
The AI Center of Excellence, featuring a new Arm-based supercomputer, will serve as a collaboration hub for AI researchers and startups across the U.K. As those plans reach fruition, Cambridge-1 will become a part of the Center of Excellence, which will expand to include more supercomputers and support for additional verticals across the U.K.
When it announced the deal, Nvidia, which makes its headquarters in Santa Clara, California, pledged to keep Arm's U.K. headquarters. The deal needs regulatory approvals from the U.K., U.S., China and the European Union. Nvidia said it expects the deal to close in 18 months, but there's plenty of opposition to it both within the U.K. and by Nvidia's rivals.
The Labour party, a science and technology workers’ union and Arm co-founder Hermann Hauser have previously called on the government to use its powers to block foreign takeovers, or attach conditions to them. Hauser has said that Nvidia would “destroy” the Arm business model of licensing its intellectual property rather than producing its own chips.