A deeper dive into Quantum computing and the cloud market

people in a server room

In my previous blog I promised to share my experiences in learning about Quantum Computing, and my attempts to distill that into what you really need to know. I have done some reading, but I quickly found that I got out of my depth. So instead, I asked some questions to the friendly quantum researchers from within Strategic Blue’s academic customer base.

I quickly found out that the term “Quantum Supremacy” is not a popular one amongst quantum researchers. They prefer to describe a “Quantum Advantage” of a quantum computer over a conventional computer, for a particular type of calculation or algorithm. There appears to be lots of healthy scientific debate over existing claims that a quantum advantage has already been achieved or not.

I had read a fair amount of scare-mongering about how quantum computing would be able to break encryption across the whole of the internet. While theoretically true, that seems to be many years off technologically and requires not just a little quantum advantage, but a lot. However, I’ve also seen the excellent point made that there is data being encrypted now, that will still be sensitive when quantum is finally able to break today’s encryption standards. I think that this point is the reason why it is important today for CIOs to build an understanding of quantum computing and how it is likely to develop its capabilities. It seems that quantum computing may become part of the solution to the encryption challenge that quantum computing itself represents.

Over the last 9 months, armchair virologists have learnt that challenging technologies such as vaccines come to market much faster if huge sums of money are thrown at researching the problem. Whilst perhaps not on quite the same scale as funding COVID-19 vaccines, quantum is getting a lot of attention at the moment.  

For example, the people that brought us the NIST definition of cloud computing. The Information Technology Laboratory at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, have just added Future Computing Technologies (i.e. quantum) and Reliable Computing as two of its 5 priority areas alongside cybersecurity, internet of things and artificial intelligence. They’ve also set up a Joint Quantum Institute with University of Maryland.

The Whitehouse announced $1bn in funding for research institutes working on Quantum Information Science, AI and 5G, under the Trump Administration. My understanding is that this is an idea that the Biden Administration also endorses. The National Science Foundation is set to play a big part in that and sent this “Dear Colleague” letter giving pre-warning that they would be funding research use of Amazon BraketIBM Quantum and Microsoft Quantum, i.e. the quantum computing simulators and production cloud services of 3 of the cloud hyperscalers. That probably means the cloud funding for that will be handled through Strategic Blue’s CloudBank public-private partnership with University of California at San Diego, UC Berkeley and University of Washington. The quantum researchers at University of Washington were my first port of call when I was trying to work out what the earliest real-world applications for quantum computing would be.

The researchers at CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider and birthplace of the world wide web think that quantum computing is going to be important for some of their challenges. They’ve started a series on online introductory lectures on quantum computing.

It’s good to see lots of international cooperation in this area. UKRI has just signed a 5 year MOU with NIST in the US around research commercialisation, calling our quantum information science AI and advanced manufacturing as the 3 priority areas. There are quantum research groups at lots of UK universities, including York, Portsmouth, Edinburgh, Leeds, Sussex and Sheffield to name just a few.

With new technology, there are always challenges. The simplest way to judge whether these challenges will be solved slowly or quickly is to assess how much money will be thrown at the problem and how seriously it is being taken not just by government, but also by major corporates.

Next, onto the more challenging task of working out how you actually use quantum computers, and how the black box in the middle actually works!

As I mentioned in my first quantum computing article, we’d love to take you along with us, as the team at Strategic Blue get up to speed on quantum computing, accessing it in the cloud as a form of HPC, and then working out what it can actually be used for! There are multiple ways you can get involved.

Quantum Curious

For those of you who are curious about what quantum computing is, how ready for market it is, how it will impact society and more, please follow Strategic Blue on LinkedIn, and subscribe to our podcast to get regular updates.

Quantum Cloud Sprites

For those of you already active in quantum computing, whether as a researcher, or as an industrial applied scientist or developer leveraging quantum computing services like Amazon Braket in a commercial setting, please apply to become a Cloud Sprite on our Quantum Computing track. We’re going to be organising funding, both cloud credits and wherever possible cash grants for quantum computing research and for early adoption of quantum computing services in the cloud. We feel this is a natural next step after providing cloud funding for COVID-19 research projects in the US and UK with our Cloud Fund to Fight COVID-19. We’re also keen to highlight quantum researchers’ publications where they have leveraged quantum computing services in the cloud.

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