For years, quantum computing has seemed like the stuff of science fiction. But the truth is that quantum computing is here and it’s more accessible to organizations than you think. And while the technology is still in its infancy, it is advancing fast.
In a recent interview, Ken Durazzo, vice president of Dell Technologies’ OCTO Research Office, explained, “There is a race toward quantum.” In the very near future, the computational capabilities of quantum will be widely available to accelerate applications and reveal new forms of business value.
A Dell Technologies white paper titled “5 Things You Should Be Doing Now to Prepare for Quantum Computing,” takes a deeper look at the technology and explains why companies should get started with quantum today.
What is quantum computing?
The first thing you need to know is that quantum computers are not just faster versions of the computers we use today. “Quantum systems fundamentally behave and compute much, much differently than our normal systems, our classical systems, do,” said Durazzo.
Traditional, or classical, computers rely on transistors that can be either on or off, a 1 or 0. And they store this information as bits.
Quantum computers harness the principles of quantum mechanics to consider multiple possibilities — not just 1 or 0. They use qubits to compute all the possibilities simultaneously. This makes quantum computers are very, very good at calculating the possibilities when a problem has multiple possible outcomes. And for these specialized problems, they are very, very, fast.
Will quantum computers replace classical computers?
You probably won’t ever replace all your classical computers with quantum computers. For one thing, quantum computers aren’t very good at finding definitive answers to very precise questions, such as “What is the current balance in my bank account?”
For another quantum computers need classical computers to function. “You can’t have quantum computing without classical computing,” said Durazzo. “It is highly likely that we’ll see hybrid classical-quantum computing as the way forward through the era of fault-tolerant quantum systems.” In most of the current systems, a classical computer (complete with storage, processors, and networking) provides the input that then goes to a quantum computing layer. The quantum layer does the processing and then transmits the output back to a classical system, which could eventually be a high-performance computing (HPC) system as the number of qubits grows.
This setup makes it possible for anyone to experiment with quantum computing today. You can download the development tools and then interact with a virtual quantum processor (vQPU) or a physical quantum machine in the cloud. Both approaches provide an identical experience as they are programmed the same and are indistinguishable in terms of application or algorithm experimentation.
What should you be doing today?
Right now, very few people have experience with quantum computers. For this reason, Durazzo recommends that organizations start by learning as much as they can. You can download tools like Qiskit and start experimenting with quantum simulators. “At the end of the day, [quantum computing] really does take quite a bit of mental refactoring and a different way of thinking about computing and getting hands on keyboard is a wonderful way of starting to learn how this all works,” he advised.
Enterprises should also choose a partner who has experience with quantum computing to help guide them on their quantum journey. Dell Technologies has been working with quantum computing since 2016 and has resources that can help customers get up to speed with the new technology quickly. In fact, “We can now have a customer take our software and our Dell hardware and have a working quantum system in an hour,” Durazzo explained. “We have built significant automation in the system to enable a fast and frictionless deployment.”
He added, “Everything that we do is to try and make it easier for customers to adopt and take rapid advantage of new technology to accelerate their business. That’s our primary goal as a research organization. We take some of the friction out for customers because we’re learning ahead of them.”
For more information about quantum computing and details about how to get started with your quantum journey, check out “5 Things You Should Be Doing Now to Prepare for Quantum Computing.”
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