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NVIDIA doubles investment in UK supercomputer to $100m

Expenditure happens as the company waits for its much anticipated US$40 billion acquisition of UK-based chip technology firm Arm from Japan's SoftBank Group Corp.

By João Marques Lima

Founder and Editor, The Tech Capital

4 Mins

June 21, 2021 | 9:47 AM BST

NVIDIA doubles investment in UK supercomputer to $100m

Stock photo of CEO Jensen Huang speaking at the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference in 2019. Source: NVIDIA

American multinational NVIDIA’s (NASDAQ: NVDA) CEO said the company will be spending at least US$100 million on supercomputer being hosted at data centre services provider Kao Data.

The figure represents a doubling of the sum originally announced last October from $55.6 million.

CEO Jensen Huang said the $100 million to be invested in the Cambridge-1 supercomputer are “just a starting point”.

Speaking at The Six Five Summit, the executive added that this “is a big investment”.

“It is the most powerful supercomputer in the UK, and researchers are super excited about it,” Huang said.

Cambridge-1 will be powered by 80 NVIDIA DGX A100 systems and connected with NVIDIA Mellanox InfiniBand networking, delivering 400 petaflops of AI compute and 8 petaflops of LINPACK performance.

Powered by completely renewable energy, NVIDIA said it expects the machine to rank among world’s top 5 green supercomputers.

A large research project run on Cambridge-1 and that “will propel healthcare forward” is currently scheduled to be presented on July 7.

The supercomputer is hosted at Harlow-based Kao Data, a British developer and operator of colocation data centres 30 minutes north of Central London.

Located close to Arm’s headquarters, the data centre is part of a £200 million campus project that once fully built will support an IT load of over 35MW across 150,000 sq ft of technical space.

Lee Myall, appointed CEO of Kao Data in November 2020, said: “Kao Data is delighted to be hosting the UK’s most powerful supercomputer, NVIDIA’s Cambridge-1.

“By deploying it within a facility dedicated to HPC, and powering it with 100% renewable energy, this pioneering system will underpin critical bioinformatics research and lead the UK’s post-pandemic efforts to build-back-better.”

NVIDIA’s investment in the Cambridge-1 supercomputer comes as the company continues with the process to acquire semiconductor designer Arm from Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp (TYO: 9984).

The deal was originally announced in September 2020 and has been under strong scrutiny ever since.

Industry regulators and tech giants including Google, Qualcomm, Microsoft and others, have expressed their concerns over the acquisition.

This is due to the fact that Arm’s processors are found in the large majority of mobile devices as well as gaining market traction within the computer segment. Arm’s work is the basis on each companies like Apple, Samsung, Intel, Qualcomm and Nvidia manufacture their products.

Industry worries sit on the fact that if acquired by NVIDIA, Arm would be slowly pushed to serving NVIDIA’s interests more than other brands, therefore losing its manufacturer-neutral stance.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), UK Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) and the European Commission have all launched investigations into the deal.

Nevertheless, CEO Huang has recently said he is confident that the deal will go ahead, and should be greenlighted by early 2022.

As recently as last week, he complemented he said in a blog post: “The UK is vibrant, with great researchers and scientists. We are at the beginning of a new revolution, made possible by AI breakthroughs; we just need to lean into it really hard because we can make great strides, great contributions.

“The UK has every reason to be proud of Arm and its achievements and contributions to the world. We would like to combine the CPU capabilities of Arm with the artificial intelligence capability of NVIDIA to create new ideas, new innovations.”

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João Marques Lima

Founder and Editor, The Tech Capital

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