Giant bets and difficulties, how far is the technology industry from the quantum dream

Editor’s Note: On Monday, Microsoft announced the launch of its quantum computing cloud service. This article details how the service compares to those currently being developed by Google and IBM, how it differs from existing cloud services, how difficult it will be to implement, and the pervasive barriers to quantum dreams in the tech industry.

According to foreign media reports, Microsoft has finally achieved its goal by ensuring that Windows runs on multiple types of hardware. On Monday, at its Ignite conference, Microsoft announced a cloud computing service called Azure Quantum that will give people access to the most exotic hardware available through a cloud computing platform in the near future: quantum computers.

Microsoft is one of several tech giants that are investing heavily in quantum computing. Quantum computing promises unprecedented computing power by manipulating data using magical quantum mechanical processes. At present, the Azure Quantum cloud computing function that Microsoft is preparing to launch is expected to provide some customers with access to three quantum computer prototypes. The three prototypes are from engineering giant Honeywell (Honeywell) and two start-up companies – IonQ, a quantum computing startup at the University of Maryland, and QCI (Quantum Circuits, Inc), a quantum computing startup at Yale University.

Microsoft has not said that these quantum computers are ready for official use. Existing quantum hardware is weak, but in line with rivals IBM and Google, Microsoft executives say developers and businesses should start using quantum algorithms and hardware to help the industry better understand the technology The advantages.

“We knew we couldn’t come up with a one-size-fits-all solution; we needed a global community,” said Krysta Svore, general manager of Microsoft Quantum, Microsoft’s quantum computing research group.

Microsoft’s new Azure Quantum service will integrate with its previously released quantum programming tools and Microsoft cloud services. Encoders can run quantum code not only on simulated quantum hardware, but also on real quantum hardware from Honeywell, IonQ or QCI.

Microsoft officially announced the new service on Monday at its 2019 Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, and said it will be available in the next few months. The company’s partners will also run Microsoft’s quantum computer in their own equipment, but still connect the quantum computer to Microsoft’s cloud service via the Internet. Microsoft also has a long-standing quantum research program in-house, but has yet to make any quantum computing hardware.

Microsoft’s Azure Quantum shares similarities with a service from IBM, which since 2016 offered free and paid access to prototype quantum computers. Last week, Google announced that one of the company’s quantum processors surpassed a top supercomputer in computing, reaching a milestone known as “quantum supremacy.” Google also said it will soon provide some companies with remote access to quantum hardware.

The difference with Microsoft’s Azure Quantum service is that it gives customers access to several different quantum computing technologies, which may be a direction for the future quantum computing market.

Because quantum hardware is difficult to operate, it is widely believed that most companies will access the service through the cloud, rather than buying or building their own quantum computers. So far, IBM and Google’s services have limited customer access to the hardware they’ve developed.

“Microsoft’s model is more like the existing computing industry, where cloud providers allow customers to choose processors from different companies like Intel and AMD. We’re at a stage where the quantum computing industry is developing and businesses want to try as many things as possible. William Hurley, CEO of U.S. quantum computing startup Strangeworks, which offers programmers a service to build and collaborate with quantum computing tools from IBM, Google and others.

Microsoft’s hardware partners represent two leading but distinct ways of building quantum computers. Honeywell and IonQ encode data using individual ions within an electromagnetic field, while QCI uses superconducting metal circuits, an approach also favored by IBM and Google.

The development of Microsoft’s quantum cloud model might also help companies that have made progress in quantum hardware, such as Honeywell and several deep-pocketed startups, that have struggled to attract customers because they lack their own cloud operations. Peter Chapman, CEO of Microsoft partner IonQ, said: “With this help, we can focus more on what we do best and build best-in-class quantum computers.” The startup’s early customers include quantum hopefuls. Dow Chemical, where computers solve chemical problems.

Microsoft’s quantum cloud lacks the company’s self-developed quantum hardware. Microsoft’s large quantum research project is looking at a relatively young technology. Microsoft believes the technology is more beneficial in the long run, but it hasn’t even produced a chip that can perform kindergarten-level arithmetic.

Quantum computers are built on relatively rare devices called quantum bits (qubits). Like components in traditional hardware, qubits operate on data. But because qubits encode 1s and 0s as quantum mechanical effects, just like the spin of subatomic particles, qubits can flip into a third state in which 1s and 0s are superimposed. Unlike anything in the human world today, this state allows mathematics to perform calculations in ways that conventional computers cannot simplify.

The main challenge facing the quantum dream in the tech industry is that qubits are very unstable. Quantum mechanical processes are very delicate and susceptible to thermal or electromagnetic noise. The largest chips produced by IBM, Google and Intel have about 50 qubits. But it’s unclear whether these devices can achieve higher quality of use with fewer than a million qubits.

For Microsoft, the crux of the game is topological qubits, which are expected to be more stable than existing qubits. The qubit is based on manipulating a subatomic phenomenon that has long been theorized but only recently discovered, the Majorana zero mode. The mode is named after an Italian physicist who mysteriously disappeared in 1938.

Despite the discovery of the key phenomenon, Microsoft has yet to develop a topological qubit, although Microsoft Chief Quantum Executive Todd Holmdahl has said the qubit will be available by the end of last year. Chetan Nayak, general manager of quantum hardware at Microsoft and a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, responded that his team is working hard to overcome difficult problems, including the materials needed to place millions of future qubits on silicon chips. Science & Technology. “We are very excited about the progress made,” he said.

Nayak said no to the question of whether Microsoft would consider ending the hardware partnership it announced on Monday when its homegrown quantum processor is ready. But he said Microsoft is considering a strategy similar to that of laptops, where Microsoft has its own Surface brand and supports competing devices. “We expect multiple forms of hardware to coexist for some time,” he said.

Despite a lack of self-researched quantum computing hardware, Microsoft unveiled a new computer chip on Monday. But this is still a traditional chip, except that it operates at ultra-low temperatures to control the corresponding processors when the quantum hardware era arrives.

Also, like Google and IBM’s current quantum hardware, Microsoft’s future qubits will need to be cooled to near-zero absolute temperatures in special refrigerators. Creating a computer chip that can keep running in close proximity to a quantum processor could reduce the amount of wiring needed to control the electronics outside a refrigerator. Google’s quantum chips are controlled only by external electronics, and last week Google said wiring was a major challenge in scaling its technology.

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