Architecture and Hardware

EU Integrating Quantum Accelerators into HPC Datacenters

An IQM quantum computer.
IQM quantum computers are individually integrated into the architecture of high-performance computing datacenters, with 5-bit “trainers” now available for programmers to start assembling software libraries in aviation, space, and cybersecurity

The European Union (EU) has begun integrating quantum accelerators into its high-performance computing (HPC) datacenters.

In particular, IQM Quantum Computers (IQM Finland Oy, Germany GmbH, and France SA) is hawking a co-designed accelerator philosophy to EU datacenters now, and soon worldwide. Its efforts are being made in cooperation with the German government, the Finnish government, Valtion Teknillinen Tutkimuskeskus (VTT) Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. (a founding member of quantum technology developer InstituteQ, along with Aalto and Helsinki universities) and BusinessQ, a partnership which aims to incorporate quantum technology into Finnish businesses, as well as the Q-Exa project to incorporate quantum computers into German businesses, the quantum computer software developer HQS Quantum Simulations GmbH (Karlsruhe, Germany), and the quantum learning machine and ecosystem builder in France, Atos (Bezons-cedex).

According to recent International Data Corporation (IDC) market research, the EU needs to keep pace with quantum computing efforts worldwide, which IDC predicts will affect 49% of global HPC datacenters by next year. In more detail, almost half of the world's HPC datacenters will be using quantum computing resources, including cloud access, for the first time by 2023. By 2026, IDC predicts that 76% of HPC datacenters will have added both cloud and on-premise quantum accelerators.

"HPC datacenters are currently experimenting with quantum computing, but our report maps out the steps datacenter managers plan to take in hopes of harnessing the promise of quantum computing to achieve maximum impact over the next few years," said Stefano Perini, IDC European Quantum Computing Practice Co-lead.

IDC found that leading datacenters worldwide plan to tackle a wide array of problems with quantum computers ranging from uncrackable encryption to climate change (45%), solving existing problems faster (38%), reducing computing costs (42%), to bullet-proofing supply-chain logistics during times of rapid change. According to IDC's report "Untangling the HPC Innovation Dilemma Through Quantum Computing," nearly two-thirds (59%) of future quantum computer usage is expected to be devoted to speeding-up searches; other major application areas in which it will see use include investment risk analysis, molecular modeling, and asset management.

"Quantum computing will not be a HPC 'panacea' and will not replace classical HPCs for many of the tasks they're already able to do…However, HPC centers cannot take a wait-and-see approach to quantum computing, which should be considered a long-term strategic move and not simply a tactical decision," according to the report.

Recently, IQM announced its plan for a "chicken in every pot" (quantum accelerator in every HPC datacenter) in the EU by integrating 20- and 54-qubit quantum accelerators into European datacenters. The first step commercially is paving the way with a 5-qubit prototype for programmers. The just-announced architecture is intended to promote quantum programming efforts continent-wide as a means to start building a library of proven algorithms for its quantum accelerated supercomputers due in 2024.

IQM's quantum processors are built on gate-based superconducting qubits. For the 5-qubit prototype, the qubits are arranged in a star configuration, and will be scalable to the 54-qubit square lattice quantum accelerator in the near future. In addition, IQM is working on a co-design approach in which application-specific quantum processing units (QPUs) will have different topologies (arrangements and connectivity of the qubits), each optimized for specific algorithms.

"Quantum computing has so many applications that it can potentially change for the better many aspects of our everyday lives. One of the fields I'm most interested in is sustainability and having a greener future," said Inés de Vega, head of quantum innovation at IQM Germany. "One of the big challenges in the field of quantum computation is to make the link between quantum computation itself and real problems in industry. And this is precisely what we are aiming for at IQM Germany."

In the U.S., IBM, D-Wave Systems, Intel, Microsoft, Rigetti, Atom Computing, Strangeworks, Zapata Computing, Xanadu, Coldquanta, QC Ware, and Bleximo, in addition to dozens of startups in China, are also gearing up for the major advances afforded by quantum computing. The EU does not plan to be left behind, in part by funding IQM ($70 million) and collaborative efforts with the VTT (funded by the Finnish government with another $20 million). VTT is cooperating with IQM to manufacture quantum accelerators in Finland. Under the auspices of the Q-Exa, quantum exascale supercomputer trials are already underway at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (Garching, Germany), thanks to $50 million in funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. IQM also is working in cooperation with Atos SE and quantum computer software developer HQS Quantum Simulations GmbH.

IQM's co-design approach integrates the quantum accelerator into a supercomputer architecture. The world's first co-designed quantum supercomputers will integrate IQM's quantum accelerators adapted separately into each a new HPC datacenter. IQM France was created to implement the co-design approach with quantum-seeking HPC datacenters in the EU. The one-off architectures will be generalized with Atos's Scaler program, under which the collaborators intend to spin-off turn-key add-on quantum integration hardware, software, and services to HPC datacenters worldwide. IQM France is also charged with making IQM products and services interoperable with the burgeoning French quantum ecosystem, according to the company's CEO and co-founder Jan Goetz, who said VTT /IQM will be "delivering the 20-qubit and the 54-qubit" accelerators by 2024.

Goetz says IQM's co-design approach will then diversify, using different topologies optimized for specific quantum algorithms and applications. He called such co-designed QPU chips for specific real-world computation problems "mixed digital-analog hybrid installations."


R. Colin Johnson is a Kyoto Prize Fellow who ​​has worked as a technology journalist ​for two decades.

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