The software-defined quantum data center

Q-CTRL’s quantum infrastructure software is a logical addition to any quantum data center solution - public, private or hybrid.

Quantum Computing is here and it is more accessible than the average CIO thinks. 

An Oct 2022 Dell Technologies white paper titled “5 Things You Should Be Doing Now to Prepare for Quantum Computing” argued that Enterprise IT organizations that see opportunity should:

  1. Learn how to program a quantum computer (for example, using Black Opal
  2. Start experimenting with readily available tools (for example, using Fire Opal)
  3. Build HPC capabilities through hybrid computing environments (CPU + GPU + QPU)
  4. Consider applications and internal organizational alignment
  5. Choose partners with quantum expertise 

Taking action to adopt quantum computing technology now is becoming more important due to the rapidly approaching horizon of “quantum advantage'' - when it’s economically or technologically preferred to choose a quantum computing solution over the best classical IT alternative for an important computational problem. Forbes predicts that IBM will hit quantum advantage in 2026, and Quantinuum boldly pronounced Quantum Advantage could be achieved within 24 months at the IEEE Quantum Week 2022 event.

Once quantum advantage is achieved, the Boston Consulting Group estimates early adopters will capture the lion’s share of the benefits - up to 90% - and will gain long-term strategic advantages that are difficult to overcome. This makes quantum computing even more of a key consideration for Enterprise CIOs who think of ‘strategic’ IT as a fundamental enabler and key driver of business.  

Hence, ‘How will this new technology deliver value for my organization in a way that is accessible to us?’ will become a key point of discussion in the coming years. 

So, how can quantum computing be best integrated into the Enterprise workflow, and what advantages will Enterprise users reap?

The enterprise software-defined quantum data center

As Equinix argues through their recent work, making Quantum Computing as a Service available to businesses and organizations around the world lowers the barrier to entry for the end-user customer to explore commercial quantum use cases. 

In just the last few years we’ve seen major public cloud offerings from IBM Quantum Cloud, Microsoft Azure Quantum, and Amazon Web Services Braket.  Each of these connects to publicly accessible cloud-connected quantum computers, and many of the hardware-backend providers also offer their own direct access. By offering services via the public cloud these companies help make quantum software just as accessible as any other cloud service. 

To give businesses additional flexibility as they look to unlock quantum computing capabilities, colocation and interconnection services that offer quantum-hardware access via a vendor-neutral data center may offer major advantages.  

Nonetheless, a range of technological and sector-driven challenges form substantial impediments to integrating quantum computers into enterprise workflows in this way. The hardware is highly susceptible to performance-limiting errors, and there is currently an extreme diversity of competing quantum hardware technologies, with widely varying performance levels and incompatible quantum-instruction-sets in use.

The underlying differences in hardware typically mandate manually configured vendor-specific solutions at nearly all levels of abstraction.  That is, the current implementation of quantum computing looks like the obsolete hardware-defined data center in classical computing - a paradigm that has been supplanted by the efficient and flexible software-defined data center.

Looking forward to an age of widespread quantum adoption, a new and more powerful generation of Software-Defined Quantum Data Center (SDQDC) combines the best of classical hardware for memory, networking, and processing with a diversity of quantum processors to fully integrate quantum computing into an enterprise setting. The SDQDC offers CIOs a flexible choice of hardware and software tools delivering maximum utility and performance for their business needs. 

The key underlying enabler for this new paradigm is quantum infrastructure software.  By analogy with classical infrastructure software such as VMWare’s hypervisors, quantum infrastructure software, pioneered by Q-CTRL, virtualizes quantum computer hardware, breaking the link between base (faulty) hardware characteristics and actual quantum computational power. Using proven IT techniques allows Q-CTRL’s quantum infrastructure software to be easily integrated with nearly all quantum processing unit (QPU) modalities.  Ultimately, in the SDQDC quantum infrastructure software focuses on making quantum computers usable for high-value problems (utility), and improving the quality of quantum computer output to accelerate the time to quantum advantage (performance).  

In the SDQDC paradigm there’s no need to manually configure compilers and performance-management tools built for experts in quantum physics, analyze and choose between hardware backends, or customize quantum algorithms for the peculiarities of individual quantum processor architectures. Quantum infrastructure software automatically and optimally configures all aspects of hardware execution in order to deliver the best achievable performance for your application - all while fully abstracting away the underlying hardware details.

This approach is familiar to any CIO whose team is built on major PaaS offerings such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud and trusts the inbuilt tools to orchestrate the execution of computational workloads on abstracted hardware.

As a concrete example, Q-CTRL’s most recent quantum infrastructure software product uses AI (machine learning) to autonomously rewrite the machine language used to control each quantum processor;  it delivers preconfigured solutions that optimally reduce errors across a wide range of supported hardware backends, each now achieving thousand-fold performance improvement. It also uses custom predictive AI routines to configure and route data in a way that is most likely to perform best for a specific hardware system. This predictive capability is now being extended to enable automatic selection between competing hardware backends to further abstract QPUs into powerful accelerators for enterprise applications. 

Q-CTRL’s quantum infrastructure software delivers these capabilities invisibly and automatically.

A software-defined architecture for Enterprise quantum computing reduces complexity for developers, lowers barriers to quantum computing adoption and delivers faster and better business outcomes with higher return-on-investment. Perhaps most importantly, it massively increases the potential customer base to IT generalists, enabling the SDQDC to truly benefit from recent advances in classical IT (see Table 1). With these advantages, enterprise end users can focus on rapid iteration of novel applications in their push to achieve quantum advantage, with the assurance that hardware details can be abstracted without sacrificing performance.

Table 1: The use of key conventional IT trends that can be brought to the SDQDC via quantum infrastructure software

Enterprise IT experts interested in the quantum opportunity are already discovering the value delivered by quantum infrastructure software in the SDQDC. Former Citrix Systems CTO and Head of Global Technology Martin Duursma said,

"The quantum infrastructure software Q-CTRL is building is unique to the entire Quantum Industry in terms of the benefits delivered across both utility and performance. The software-defined quantum data center concept has merged the best of classical IT methodology with the deeply specialized expertise in quantum control engineering needed to improve quantum processor performance for enterprise applications. It's one concept that IT Infrastructure leaders should pay close attention to as they build their technology roadmaps."

Q-CTRL’s quantum infrastructure software is a logical addition to any quantum data center solution - public, private or hybrid.

The SDQDC’s killer advantage may be energy efficiency

The new compute power resulting from the SDQDC carries major potential long-term benefits in a hot area - energy efficiency. With quantum infrastructure software as an accelerant, we’re currently racing towards quantum advantage and seeing the potential to shift weeks or months of future classical computing workload to minutes on quantum computers. That’s an instant win in terms of energy consumption given Data Centers in the US already account for more than 2% of all electricity usage in the US. 

In addition, the hardware abstraction and performance enhancement delivered by quantum infrastructure software have been shown to balance out performance differences between quantum backend technologies. That opens opportunities to integrate new, emerging quantum hardware technologies that reduce energy consumption by operating without complex cooling into a hybrid “best of breed” architecture.   

This is not the stuff of dreams. Room-temperature operation is already enabled by leading platforms like IonQ’s technology, as well as emerging platforms based on alternative hardware systems from Quera, Pasqal, Psiquantum, and Quantum Brilliance. Q-CTRL’s infrastructure software optimizes performance on all gate-based quantum computing hardware. Our approach hence enables a truly heterogeneous and energy efficient data center, adding distinct quantum processing and quantum storage modalities to the existing CPU/GPU classes, and optimizing system-level energy efficiency while allowing the end user to harness unprecedented levels of compute power. 

Seamlessly integrating all of these extant and emerging QPU technologies makes the SDQDC the best opportunity to reset expectations for the balance of computational capability and energy consumption in the future data center. Reduced energy consumption will have direct ESG benefits, but will also simply reduce costs for enterprises.

Opening opportunities for enterprise to win in the quantum era

Q-CTRL is the first global ISV to offer specialized quantum infrastructure software in support of the SDQDC, and the first to achieve ISO27001 certification in support of this goal.  We operate the world’s largest team of experts in quantum control engineering, and have turned this into a unique - and transformational - software offering. In short, we can make quantum computers do things that can shock even the teams building them. Q-CTRL’s technology is accelerating the pathway to quantum advantage.

This is why IBM Quantum announced in May 2023 that through a new partnership, Q-CTRL’s performance-management Quantum Infrastructure Software will soon be offered as a native option on IBM Quantum machines available through IBM Quantum Cloud. And why Q-CTRL announced in July 2023 that it was becoming a founding member of the “CLOQC” partnership with Oxford Quantum Circuits, NVIDIA and others to advance the relevance of quantum computing for enterprise. 

The SDQDC concept opens an opportunity to transform quantum computing from a niche expert tool to a key part of future enterprise architectures. It opens possibilities for internal strategic capabilities as well as new product and service offerings, just as we’ve seen an explosion of SaaS offerings with the advent of cloud service providers such as AWS and Azure.  

The quantum future is wide open. Will your enterprise lead or lag in the quantum era?

This article was originally published in CIO Review under the title, "Building the software-defined quantum data center with quantum infrastructure software".


Take the next step on your journey with short articles to help you understand how quantum computing and sensing will transform the world