IBM quantum computer (IBM Research/YouTube)

IBM expands cloud-based quantum access

IBM announced that select commercial clients and research labs will be working directly with the company to advance quantum computing.

The 12 organizations -- which include companies like JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG and Samsung as well as regional research hubs such as Oak Ridge National Lab, Oxford University and the University of Melbourne -- make up the newly formed IBM Q Network. The collaboration aims to advance quantum computing and foster a quantum computing ecosystem based on IBM’s open source quantum software and developer tools.

Members of the IBM Q Network will have cloud-based access to the 20-qubit IBM Q system and eventually to the company's 50-qubit prototype processor. They will also be able to tap into quantum engineers, developers and consultants focusing initially in logistics and modeling use cases for mining, banking, life sciences and electronics applications.

In October, the Department of Energy's Office of Science awarded Oak Ridge quantum science research teams more than $10 million over five years to assess the feasibility of quantum architectures for big science problems and to develop algorithms that can take advantage of  quantum computing system' predicted power.

“Establishing ORNL as a hub of the IBM Q Network would again demonstrate that UT-Battelle is at the forefront of innovation, enabled by the world's most advanced computational systems, and will continue to drive transformational advancements in science and research," Oak Ridge National Laboratory Associate Laboratory Director Jeff Nichols said.  UT-Battelle is the private not-for-profit company that operates Oak Ridge for the Department of Energy. 

In June 2016, IBM launched the cloud-based IBM Quantum Experience, which allowed researchers to connect to IBM’s quantum processor via the IBM Cloud. So far, over 60,000 users have run more than 1.7M quantum experiments and generated over 35 third-party research publications, the company said.

Meanwhile, in Redmond…

Microsoft, meanwhile, is pushing its quantum-computing-stack vision, announcing a Quantum Development Kit to enable developers to work with quantum computing regardless of their expertise in quantum physics.  The SDK includes a quantum computing simulator, the purpose-built Q# programming language, a small set of primitive types, along with the ability to create new structured types via either arrays or tuples, according to a report on GCN's sibling site Redmondmag. It also features basic procedural constructs for writing programs such as loops and if/then statements, with top-level constructs being user-defined types, operations and functions.

According to the Microsoft AI Blog, the kit will let people create applications that can currently run on the SDK's local quantum simulator, and those same apps also will eventually work on a topological quantum computer, which Microsoft is in the process of developing for general purpose quantum computing.

With the local quantum simulator (an Azure-based simulator is also available), coders will be able to simulate about 30 logical qubits of quantum computing power just using a typical laptop, Microsoft said. The more scalable Azure simulator boosts that up to more than 40 logical qubits of computing power.

Hardware breakthrough?

In other quantum computing news, engineers from the University of New South Wales have developed a new kind of architecture that uses standard silicon-based semiconductors to perform quantum calculations. The new chip design, published in Nature Communications, "charts a conceivable engineering pathway toward creating millions of quantum bits, or qubits, according to Menno Veldhorst, lead author of the paper that was reported on

"To solve problems that address major global challenges -- like climate change or complex diseases like cancer -- it's generally accepted we will need millions of qubits working in tandem, Veldhorst said. "To do that, we will need to pack qubits together and integrate them, like we do with modern microprocessor chips. That's what this new design aims to achieve."

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 and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.

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