Microsoft Announces Azure Quantum, An Open Cloud Ecosystem

In the leadership of Satya Nadella, Microsoft has grown from just window company to a whole new dominant player of every other industry, whether it’s cloud computing, social media or hardware products.

This week, Microsoft has taken a bold move, the company has announced that their cloud computing platform Microsoft Azure will soon offer access to the most exotic hardware of all, the quantum computers.

The company is planning to release an open cloud quantum computing service, Microsoft has already released its Quantum Development Kit and Q# compilers and simulators for developers this summer.

The Quantum Development Kit (QDK) is interoperable with Python, and it aims to abstract differences that exist between different types of quantum computers. Both the Q# and the Quantum Development Kit can be tested on simulators as well as on a variety of quantum hardware.

Microsoft has a three-pronged goal with Azure Quantum. It can be used for learning, developers can write programs with Q# and the QDK and test their codes against simulators and organizations can use them to solve complex business problems using solutions and algorithms running in Azure.

In its developer conference, the company has made a partnership with Honeywell and two startups, IonQ, from the University of Maryland, and QCI from Yale, to achieve quantum computing capabilities.

A partnership with the startup IonQ will enable developers to use existing Microsoft products, like Visual Studio or the Quantum Development Kit (QDK) along with quantum computers.

IonQ uses an approach to quantum computing that focuses on trapping ions. “IonQ brings a unique approach to quantum computing, with tremendous potential,” said Microsoft quantum systems general manager.

“This partnership brings world-class quantum computing capabilities to Azure Quantum, and we’re excited to continue working together to realize the full benefits of quantum computers.”

In this team of three, Honeywell and IonQ encode data using individual ions trapped in electromagnetic fields, while QCI uses superconducting metal circuits, an approach also favored by IBM and Google.

Microsoft calls these upgrades a major breakthrough in quantum engineering and believes they will open up possibilities of scaling beyond the physical limitations of current quantum systems.

Microsoft said, “With one program, you’ll be able to target a variety of hardware through Azure Quantum – Azure classical computer, quantum simulators and resource estimators, and quantum hardware from our partners, as well as our future quantum system being built on the revolutionary topological qubit.”

Microsoft has also made collaboration with Dow, to identify the problem in which the molecular energy of a ring of hydrogen atoms had to be evaluated. Using 1QBit’s problem decomposition solution expressed in Q#, the team was able to run a computation in Azure against IonQ’s quantum computer based on trapped ions.

Microsoft Announces Azure Quantum, An Open Cloud Ecosystem

To power the Azure Quantum, Microsoft claims to have made some major upgrades to its quantum computing systems under the leadership of David Reilly, scientific director, and professor at the University of Sydney. Reilly will publish further details on the subject in the coming months.

Mircosoft collaborates with the University of Sydney in controlling 50,000 qubits through 3 wires, as well as a cryogenic CMOS design, and a one square-centimeter chip operating at near-absolute-zero temperatures.

“It’s fair to say the chip we have developed is one of the most sophisticated micro-devices ever made. It has miniaturized the complex support networks that are making early-stage quantum computers possible.”

“This means the next step, which is to scale-up to devices that actually solve real-world problems, enters the realm of possibility,” David Reilly said in a press statement.

“The field is evolving. I took my first quantum computing class in the late 90s, and it felt really far away then. Even in the last five, six years, things continue to accelerate,” said Julie Love, senior director for quantum business development at Microsoft.

“This is really a brand new technology. We’re building quantum systems that leverage the power of quantum physics, and it takes a new approach, innovations across the entire stack.”

“We don’t have that scalable quantum system now. Technology always happens this way, things always feel like they’re really far away, and then we get exponentials, which are hard for humans to grok this pace of change, we’re starting to see that impact now with quantum.”

“We’re seeing the work on the quantum-inspired side, we’ve had breakthroughs across the entire stack with our program, and each of those breakthroughs really gets us closer to that realization of true quantum impact,” Love added.

Microsoft’s Azure Quantum is very similar to IBM’s service that offered free and paid access to prototype quantum computers since 2016, Azure Quantum differs by offering access to a variety of several different quantum computing technologies.

The launch date of Azure Quantum has not revealed yet, Microsoft, on its official website, said that the Azure Quantum will be launched in private preview in the coming months.

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