Saturday, July 2, 2022

The Importance of IBM’s Expanded Quantum Roadmap

IBM’s recently expanded its “Quantum Roadmap.” It’s important, because it shows that if you aren’t developing quantum programming skills now, you’re already behind. 

Up until now, most of us were still thinking that we had around a decade before we’d need to be competent in this space to remain competitive, but this roadmap suggests the need for these skills may be necessary as early as 2025. Building competence in a revolutionary technology that has little in common with existing computing concepts is going to take considerable training.  

Let’s cover the state of the market according to IBM — and why you are increasingly exposed if you aren’t spinning up a core team skilled in quantum computing, as a hedge against its premature emergence tomorrow.  

2022

IBM’s goals for 2022 are aggressive against the old timeline but right in line with the new one. They include:

  • First, they plan on bringing dynamic circuits — circuits that couple real-time classical computation with quantum operations — to the stack.
  • Second, they plan to release the 433-qubit IBM Quantum Osprey processor, incorporating the latest innovations from previous chips, while preparing for the challenges of developing even larger hardware.
  • Third, they plan to double quantum volume not just once, but twice, from 256 to 1,024. With higher quantum volumes, users will be able to successfully run longer quantum circuits than ever before.
  • And fourth, they plan to increase the highest CLOPs of their processors from 2.9k to 10k. Faster processing means that users can use more error mitigation.

Of these goals the most interesting to me is the creation of dynamic circuits. Dynamic circuits provide the bi-directional feedback of quantum measurements, which are used to direct the course of future operations. These dynamic circuits are critical to the flexibility of quantum computing and its ability to adapt to existing and future related workloads. These circuits extend into the hardware and are core to the future capability of quantum computing.  

Second, of course, is the increase in quantum volume, which speaks to the capability and viability of quantum computing, and IBM and is on the critical path to quantum leadership when quantum computing finally rises to meet, and likely exceed, its expectations.  

Quantum-centric computing

One very interesting part of this announcement is the emergence of quantum-centric computing. This is much like a supercharger or turbocharger on an engine but with a massively greater potential performance boost to existing high performance computing (HPC) and supercomputer platforms. This anticipates the creation of QPUs that will work in conjunction with CPUs and GPUs to create a level of performance unparalleled in modern times.  

Focused on solving the world’s toughest problems, this new class of computers will be critical to both addressing current large-scale problems, like climate change, and future existential problems to humanity.  

This won’t be easy. IBM is effectively rewriting the rules surrounding the entire computing market, using quantum computing as the change agent. If successful, it could turn IBM into a powerhouse. 

Wrapping up

IBM is one of a handful of companies leading the charge to quantum-centric computing. 

It has worked aggressively to develop, in parallel, both the technology and training necessary to advance this technology into the market and move it into the mainstream of computing. If successful, IBM will help pivot the market to this new, vastly higher performing technology. If the industry as a whole isn’t ready for it, it’ll quickly fall behind.  

Areas like classification and compliance at scale as well as the ability of governments to catch companies that aren’t compliant will increase dramatically, customer analysis will become more accurate, and predictive algorithms will become more accurate as well. 

Companies that can deploy this technology once it’s ready will have a significant competitive advantage over those that can’t. The time is now to spin up quantum computing expertise, so you know when and how to use this technology effectively when it becomes available.    

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