How has the Quantum Cloud Computing Evolved over Years?
What Cloud Platforms have to offer in the Quantum Computing Industry?
Quantum Computing (QC) in cloud premises is an emerging discipline in the technological age, yet it is not the first time we hear about it. Several business leaders have already ventured into this field with hopes of expanding their business through the integration of cloud-based applications and quantum computers. This includes the likes of Rigetti, Google, IBM, Alibaba, and Microsoft.
Alibaba and Rigetti’s QCS
In 2018, Alibaba took a giant leap in quantum cloud computing by partnering its cloud service subsidiary Aliyun with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Together they launched an 11-qubit quantum computing service, which is available to the public on the Quantum Computing Cloud Platform. In the same year later in September, Rigetti, a quantum computing startup, introduce Quantum Cloud Services (QCS), which is dubbed as the world’s first quantum cloud computing platform. This announcement was made after Rigetti told sources that it was building 128-qubit quantum computers with the low error rates needed to achieve quantum advantage. These systems were based on the company’s scalable 16, 32, and 128-qubit Aspen quantum processors. By using QCS, quantum processors can be firmly integrated with classical computing infrastructure to deliver the application-level performance needed to achieve a quantum advantage.
Microsoft entering the Game
Last year in April, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure, announced that it would be offering quantum computer service via the cloud. The company was planning to use Azure’s cloud computing services to offer select customers access to three prototype quantum computers, from engineering conglomerate Honeywell and two startups, IonQ, which emerged from the University of Maryland, and QCI spun out of Yale. Through this new service named Azure Quantum, coders can run quantum code on simulated quantum hardware, or real quantum hardware from Honeywell, IonQ, or QCI.
Other Key Players
Last month, D-Wave Systems made its quantum cloud service available in Australia, allowing developers, researchers, and businesses access to its D-Wave 2000Q quantum computers, hybrid solvers, and quantum application environment. Even IBM’s cloud-enabled quantum computing platform, called IBM Quantum Experience (IBM Q), is designed to let people use individual quantum bits, also known as qubits, to run algorithms and experiments on IBM’s quantum processor. First launched in 2016, and in January, IBM announced that 100 companies now use IBM Q to experiment with quantum computing, including Delta Air Lines (DAL), Goldman Sachs (FADXX), and Daimler (DDAIF). Then we also have Google’s 72 qubits quantum computing chip called Bristlecone, which came out in 2018.
Why do we need cloud and Future of QC
The need for a cloud-based quantum computer arose since current quantum computers require very specialized hardware and supporting infrastructure. They require superconductivity to create and maintain a quantum state, for which one needs to preserve qubits at a temperature near absolute zero using a dilution refrigerator. IBM and Google’s quantum computer needs cooling down to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, which is colder than outer space. Hence, end-users rely on getting access to quantum services through a cloud platform instead of building one by themselves. This is similar to mainframe sharing that was common a generation ago. Gartner’s VP of Research Martin Reynolds says that “Cloud vendors have the technological resources and a large pool of users. So, they will inevitably be some of the first quantum-as-a-service providers and will look for ways to provide the best software development and deployment stacks.”
The publicly available Python APIs from IBM and Rigetti makes it easier for programmers and researchers to test programs on simulators and to run the calculations on actual quantum hardware without needing to know many details about the hardware itself. This is possible as cloud-based quantum computing offers a direct interface to quantum circuits and quantum chips, enabling the final testing of quantum algorithms. Besides, cloud providers will also have remote data centers with quantum computers, just as they do with regular computers. With all these promising potentials, this is just the beginning of the quantum computer system.