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During last month’s Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, Oxford Quantum Circuits (OQC) CEO Ilana Wisby talked about the company’s advances in quantum computing and why it believes that data centers are the best locations to leverage the power of this disruptive technology.
“In 1982, [Richard] Feynman first came up with the idea that we need quantum computers to solve really hard problems,” Wisby said. “Nature all around us is inherently quantum. So, to solve some of these problems, nature is better at it than the machines that we have.
“We are originally a spinoff from the University of Oxford, and we are a pure-play quantum-compute-as-a-service company,” she added. “Now, what that means is that we build full quantum computers — so full-stack, right away from the quantum processor, [using] the university’s proprietary IP. We also do our control software and hardware, then connect it to the cloud. So users and customers can run algorithms directly onto our systems.”
One question that quantum computing companies always get is: How many qubits do you have? Wisby argues that the number of qubits isn’t the only critical factor.
“We need to have many qubits, and for full-tolerance qubit computation, we’ll need millions of qubits,” she said. “But there is no point in simply building more qubits if the quality of the qubits themselves gets worse.”
She explained that many people are building larger systems, but the overall capability of those systems is getting worse. Instead of increasing the performance, they run into many more problems to keep the systems stable.
At present, OQC makes qubits out of superconducting circuits.
According to the company’s website, “Traditional 2D circuits require increasingly intricate engineering to route control wiring across the chip to the qubit. This degrades the quality of the qubits and increases the chance of costly engineering errors.” Its innovative core technology — the Coaxmon — has a 3D architecture that brings key componentry off-chip for vastly increased simplicity, flexibility and, crucially, scalability.
OQC also builds full-stack quantum computers. LUCY, a European, commercially available quantum computer, is an 80-qubit quantum computer accessible through both public and private cloud access. One way to try it is to log into AWS Amazon Braket and run a quantum algorithm in LUCY.
For Wisby, quantum computing must be able to integrate with existing cloud infrastructure.
“What we are now doing is taking to the next stage, which is our colocation data center strategy,” she said. “We are deploying our computers in today’s data centers, which are already secure endpoints for customers and where their data already exists.”
She argues that for quantum computing to be able to work with existing data, low-latency connections are a must, and in the future, a hybrid approach will be at most data centers, combining digital and quantum computers on the same premises.
OQC, Cyxtera partnership
Two months ago, OQC teamed up with Cyxtera, a cloud services company with more than 60 data centers in over 30 markets, to install the first quantum computer in a general-purpose facility. The two companies believe that the colocation and interconnection of the quantum computer with the rest of the data center will provide faster response times by reducing latency times. Enabling quantum algorithms within the data center also safeguards data privacy and security, as raw data is not leaving the premises.
“For quantum computing to be genuinely accessible and fully realize its potential as a technology, it must seamlessly integrate within businesses’ current computing and data management infrastructure,” Wisby said. “At this stage, it simply cannot work in isolation. Thanks to this pioneering partnership, we will give Cyxtera’s customers direct access to our latest quantum computer — within their data centers, at the click of a button — without making any changes to their operations.
“There are huge opportunities with quantum in terms of the reduction of energy usage, particularly within data centers, and we know that, of course, data centers are really struggling in terms of their energy-density capacity,” she added. “There’s a lot of additional pieces that we need to make sure that we’re building sustainably more, as well.”