UAlbany to Install First Computing Cluster of IBM Prototype Artificial Intelligence Hardware on a University Campus

A person in the foreground slides a metallic silver computer node into a server rack.
An example of a computer node containing AIU cards. (Photo credit: Ryan Lavine for IBM)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 6, 2024) — Today, the University at Albany announced it will be the first academic institution in the world to receive a prototype computing cluster specially designed by IBM Research for artificial intelligence applications.

The IBM Artificial Intelligence Unit (IBM AIU) is a prototype system-on-a-chip architecture that has been optimized for AI inferencing — the process of running live data through a trained AI model to solve a task — and will be installed at UAlbany as part of the Center for Emerging Artificial Intelligence Systems (CEAIS). CEAIS is a research collaboration with IBM that enables students, faculty, and others to run foundation models and advance generative AI research.

Last month, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the formation of the Empire AI Consortium, an ambitious public-private partnership designed to ensure New York leads in AI research and development, job creation and the responsible adoption of the technology focused on advancing the public good. SUNY is a founding partner in the consortium, and UAlbany, which also is currently building a state-of-the-art AI supercomputer on campus, will play a critical role in advancing New York’s leadership in developing artificial intelligence solutions and talent.

Albany as a leader in chip innovation

A close-up image of a silver and black PCIe computer card.
A prototype IBM AIU PCIe card. (Photo credit: Ryan Lavine for IBM)

“UAlbany is proud to be the first institution in the world to receive this cutting-edge technology, and we are grateful to IBM for their continued collaboration,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. “We are committed to using the IBM AIU to expand the frontiers of AI-powered research. This system will support our innovative AI Plus initiative, through which researchers are using AI to help improve weather prediction and tumor diagnostics, secure wireless communications, expand forensic investigation capabilities and much more. We look forward to working with Gov. Hochul through her Empire AI Consortium and beyond to cement New York’s leadership in AI technology.”

“Albany is quickly becoming a global leader in technology innovation, and is where IBM continues to build next-generation computing technologies in areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and semiconductors,” said Mukesh Khare, GM, IBM Semiconductors and VP, Hybrid Cloud at IBM Research. “Critical to the continued development of these technologies is a skilled workforce. We are proud to collaborate with UAlbany to bring the IBM AIU to campus, enabling exciting educational and research opportunities in generative AI.”

Developed at the IBM Research AI Hardware Center, the IBM AIU features 32 AI processing cores and contains 23 billion transistors. The IBM AIU is housed in a 75w PCIe card that is easily installed in a server. The installation of the IBM AIU cluster in UAlbany’s Uptown Data Center will begin later this month and is expected to be completed this spring.

“IBM’s decision to offer the very first IBM AIU computing cluster to UAlbany is a testament to the outstanding work our faculty and scientists are doing in generative AI and the strong collaboration between our organizations,” said UAlbany Vice President for Research and Economic Development Thenkurussi “Kesh” Kesavadas. “With access to this powerful new system, UAlbany researchers will have the tools to collaborate on next-generation AI foundation models. The Center for Emerging AI Systems will make UAlbany a global leader in the application of AI, and UAlbany looks forward to sharing its expertise and resources as part of the Empire AI Consortium.”

Read more about the IBM AIU on IBM Research's blog.

Under the umbrella of the CEAIS, researchers from UAlbany and IBM will jointly undertake research projects that use the IBM AIU and other advanced computing resources to further our understanding of artificial intelligence and its applications in critical areas such as public health, weather prediction and semiconductor design. In addition to the AIU, UAlbany will gain access to an IBM advanced GPU cluster via the IBM Cloud for training AI foundation models. The first request for proposals for CEAIS research projects was announced on Feb. 2.

The next phase of the AI Plus initiative

The installation of the IBM AIU comes as the University at Albany is building a new supercomputer of its own, expected to be completed later this summer. Funded in part by a $75 million infusion of state support in 2022, this supercomputing cluster — a series of advanced GPU computers working together as a more powerful computer —consists of NVIDIA DGX hardware. Building new AI supercomputing capacity was an integral part of the AI Plus initiative. AI Plus is UAlbany’s holistic approach to integrating teaching and learning about AI across the University’s academic and research programs to ensure every graduate is prepared to live and work in a world radically changed by technology. Combined with the IBM AIU, this new supercomputing cluster is expected to dramatically expand the AI supercomputing capacity in Upstate New York. 

UAlbany and IBM Research have previously worked together on research projects examining the impact of weather and climate on transportation, renewable energy and water quality as well as the social and ethical significance of advances in AI and machine learning technology. The jointly published work includes an examination of the degree to which existing AI systems can assess human trustworthiness.