Opinion: state and prospects of quantum computing in the cloud

Research firm IDC predicts that by 2023, 25% of Fortune 500 companies will use quantum computing.

This is a very bold prediction, given that today we have no real examples of quantum computing. At the consumer electronics show earlier this year, the biggest buzz was caused not by the latest smartphone, gadget, or autopilot technology, but rather by unprecedented computing power based on the field of quantum physics, which albert Einstein described as "creepy action at a distance.""

While quantum computing has not yet been factored into solving global problems such as the coronavirus pandemic, it is this type of problem that has the potential to be solved with quantum computing. According to one of the developers of quantum computers, IBM, it is in this decade that quantum computing will step into the real world.

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For this reason, it is important today to give quantum technologies publicity, rather than keep them buried in research institutions. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, D-Wave, and Regetti are also looking to promote quantum technologies, and based on IDC's recent report "trends in quantum computing adoption: survey results 2020", this trend is gaining momentum.

According to responses from 520 it and business professionals, budgets for implementing quantum computing will continue to increase over the next 2 years. Half of all respondents to the IDC survey reported that funds allocated to quantum computing account for only 0-2% of the annual it infrastructure in 2019, but will be 7-10% in the next 24 months. For companies with more than 10,000 employees, the increase in spending is more significant: half of respondents expect to spend between 9% and 14% on quantum technologies over the next two years.

Respondents to the IDC survey were clear on what they were focusing on: 65% of respondents plan to use the cloud power of quantum computers, and another 45% plan to implement or already use quantum algorithms (including simulators, optimization, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning). According to the IDC survey, the top five include quantum networks (44%), hybrid quantum computing (40%), and quantum cryptography (33%).

Why companies need quantum computing

Heather West, IDC's senior research analyst for infrastructure systems, platforms and technologies and one of the report's authors, says that quantum computing is superior to solving large problems where there is so much data. According to the IDC report, the initial areas of focus will be artificial intelligence, business intelligence, and overall business productivity and efficiency.

“Very few companies have actually put quantum computing into operation because it requires very advanced specialists, and in reality few understand quantum science, " West said, adding that we are still at the stage of experimenting with algorithms as companies also seek to overcome issues such as cost, security, and data transfer between vendors. However, West points out that there are already practical use cases in areas such as manufacturing and Finance.

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Right now, West says, the focus is on how to optimize processes. However, in the future, quantum methods will be applied to larger problems, such as " how to fight climate change and treat diseases.”

Of course, quantum computing is not without its problems. IDC names complex technologies, skill set limitations, lack of available resources, cost, security, and data transfer between cloud quantum service providers as barriers to implementation. With so many problems, it's not surprising that big companies are still leading the way: Google tops the list with 37% of respondents naming it as a quantum service provider, followed by Microsoft with 32%, IBM with 27%, and Intel with 23%.

Understanding quantum computing

What makes quantum computing more powerful than classical computing is that instead of relying on binary bits (such as 1 or 0), quantum computing uses qubits. Qubits can process more data because they can exist in many possible combinations of 1 and 0 simultaneously, known as superposition, processing a huge number of results.

In addition to superposition, pairs of qubits can be "entangled". This entanglement is what makes quantum computers as powerful as they are. What makes it even more intriguing is that no one knows how – or why – it works.

In classical computing, doubling the number of bits gives you, as you might expect, twice as much computing power. However, due to entanglement, adding more qubits gives you exponentially more computing power.

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Not all qubits are created equal, they are unpredictable and susceptible to environmental noise and calculation errors. After an error, they return to the binary state 1 or 0, so the longer the calculation is performed without an error,the larger it can be.

How common are these errors? A small fluctuation in temperature or vibration can cause so-called "decoherence", and as soon as the qubit is in this state, its calculation is canceled and started again. For this reason, quantum computers are placed in an environment with a temperature close to absolute zero, and are practically not affected by any external influence.

A very important parameter is the number of qubits in a quantum computer. At 50 qubits, its power becomes comparable to a supercomputer. IBM last fall announced its 53-qubit quantum computer, the previous systems were 20 qubits. However, a quantum is more than qubits. "The hardware is at the center of the circle, but then you have algorithms and applications," says Pizzolato. More complex algorithms are critical to the success of quantum computing in the real world. "Quantum is all about the algorithms you can run and the complexity of those algorithms," she says.

Main trends in the development of quantum computing:

Organizational factors such as it productivity improvements and C-level directives correlate with individual roles that most strongly influence investment in quantum computing, namely CIOs/IT managers and internal it steering committees.

  • Recognized it cloud solution providers such as IBM, Google, and Microsoft are the preferred quantum computing providers and industry partners.
  • Small startups are the preferred independent software vendors.
  • Complex technologies, limited skill sets, and lack of available resources slow down the adoption of quantum computing technology
  • Other challenges to implementing quantum computing technologies include high costs, security, and data transfer between cloud service providers.
  • To increase the level of knowledge of staff about quantum computing, organizations will be forced to hire experts in quantum equipment, engineers and specialists in data processing.

Ron Amadeo

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