D-Wave quantum machine (Photo by D-Wave)

D-Wave open sources quantum app development software

Agencies looking to experiment with quantum computing now have access to open source quantum software tools from D-Wave Systems.

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To foster a quantum software development ecosystem, the company created qbsolv, which lets developers build higher-level tools and applications leveraging the D-Wave quantum systems without the need to understand the complex physics of quantum computers.

Qbsolv handles large optimization problems by breaking them down into smaller segments that can run individually on D-Wave’s quantum processor, then combining the individual answers into one overall solution. That means users can solve problems up to 20 times larger than could be solved on a D-Wave processor without using qbsolv, the company said. As the power of the D-Wave system continues to grow, the size of the individual problem segments will increase, allowing users to tackle larger problems in less time. 

So far, use of the software is limited to researchers who have access to D-Wave machines. Lockheed Martin bought the first-ever D-Wave System and has already upgraded it a few times.  Another was bought by Google (in partnership with the Universities Space Research Association and NASA) and a third by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a long-time leader in the use of high-performance computers.  For everyone else, D-Wave has a web application programming interface with client libraries available for C, C++, Python and MATLAB for its 2X System. This API allows the machine to be easily accessed as a cloud resource over a network, the company said.

“D-Wave is driving the hardware forward,” Bo Ewald, president of D-Wave International, told Wired. “But we need more smart people thinking about applications and another set thinking about software tools.”

Early qbsolv users at LANL used the software to find better ways of splitting the molecules for electronic structure calculations.

LANL Computer Scientist Scott Pakin built a quantum macro assembler called qmasm that leverages qbsolv to create programs that would otherwise be too large to implement on the D-Wave system. Other national labs are using qbsolv to develop quantum computing frameworks that they hope to open source.

In June 2016, LANL’s Information Science and Technology Institute asked scientists to propose projects involving the use of the D-Wave machine. The goal was to expose as many people as possible to D-Wave software development.  Eleven projects were funded.

D-Wave’s qbsolv release adds to a growing software ecosystem for the company's quantum systems. 

“Just as a software ecosystem helped to create the immense computing industry that exists today, building a quantum computing industry will require software accessible to the developer community,” Ewald said. “By making our tools open source, we expand the community of people working to solve meaningful problems using quantum computers.”

To that end, IBM recently made its five-qubit quantum processor available through the cloud for anyone to experiment with, in the hope of accelerating the understanding and development of applications for its system.  IBM uses a gate logic approach similar to that of current non-quantum computers and that can be programmed to solve many different kinds of problems.

Microsoft, meanwhile, offers a suite of tools that allows computer scientists to simulate a quantum computer’s capabilities. The LIQUi|> simulation platform can be used to translate a quantum algorithm written in the form of a high-level program into the low-level machine instructions for a quantum device.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA from West Chester University and an MA in English from the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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