Azure Quantum, the public cloud ecosystem dedicated to quantum applications developed by Microsoft, is now available in preview. The Redmond giant has invited developers and researchers in the field to start using the platform’s cloud services to explore, build and test quantum technology applications that could transform a wide range of industries.
Since Microsoft’s Build event last year, Azure Quantum has had a limited preview, and developers from some companies have piloted the platform in recent months. Experiments have been carried out in many different fields including material design, financial modeling and traffic optimization.
“With Azure Quantum Public Preview, we are opening the technology up to a larger ecosystem,” Julie Love, senior director at Microsoft Quantum, told . “This means developers, researchers, systems integrators and customers can use it to learn and build. “
Azure Quantum aims to create a one-stop-shop for developers, with the software and hardware resources needed to build quantum applications.
Microsoft Provides Open Source Quantum Development Kit
Quantum computing is based on different building blocks than classical computing. While classic bits can only contain a single value of zero or one, quantum bits – or qubits – can be programmed to hold multiple values at the same time. By exploiting this particular characteristic of qubits, quantum computers can solve problems exponentially faster than classical computers, although quantum devices are still in their infancy.
The Azure Quantum ecosystem is also packed with software that helps developers get started with writing quantum applications. Among them, an open source quantum development kit (QDK) provides a foundation for researchers to develop new algorithms with Q #, a quantum-focused programming language.
Researchers can use the QDK to develop and test new quantum algorithms, to run small examples on a simulator, or to estimate the resources needed to perform scale simulations on future quantum computers. QDK’s GitHub repository also includes Q # libraries and open source samples that can be used to build quantum computing applications.
“Quantum computing research is made possible in Azure Quantum by a rich set of tools ranging from QDK and Q # programming language to quantum,” notes Julie Love. “The Q # programming language is a modern, high-level language that promises sustainable code, which means your code will work on different types of quantum hardware and on future quantum systems. “
Quantum applications in chemistry under study
Microsoft has started working on quantum applications in chemistry and recently published research on using quantum computers to design a catalyst that could remove carbon from the atmosphere. For the first trials of Azure Quantum, Microsoft also worked with materials science company Dow to build a quantum representation of a chemistry problem using the Q # language.
Currently available quantum devices can only support a small number of qubits, which means that the quantum algorithms that are today built on Microsoft’s quantum platform are designed to solve problems on a small scale, without much interest. commercial. But as Julie Love explains, Azure Quantum’s goal is more to tinker with quantum capabilities, to lay the groundwork for future hardware improvements.
“These quantum computing applications promise to solve some of our planet’s toughest challenges – in energy, climate, materials, agriculture, healthcare and more. », She specifies. “Such problems will require the use of large, scalable, fault-tolerant quantum hardware under development, and it is essential to start building and testing these quantum methods today. “
Azure Quantum offers an alternative, however, for developers who don’t want to wait for a quantum computer at scale to become available. Microsoft is indeed engaged in quantum-inspired technology – a method of emulating certain quantum effects on classical computers to start reaping the benefits of quantum computing in the shorter term.
Partners associated with the project
The idea is to mimic certain quantum behaviors in order to develop quantum-inspired algorithms that can then be run on classical hardware to solve difficult problems, in order to achieve significant acceleration over traditional approaches. This method is particularly suited to optimization problems.
Azure Quantum customers can therefore use optimization solvers inspired by quanta from Microsoft and partner company 1QBit, to run big problems in Azure on classic CPUs, GPUs and FGPAs.
The quanta-inspired methods provided by Azure Quantum have been used by advanced materials company OTI Lumionics to design the next generation of OLED displays, for example. Ford has also tested the technology to improve traffic optimization, with promising results in scenarios involving up to 5,000 vehicles.
The Azure Quantum preview also saw software company Jij and Toyota Tsusho working with tools inspired by quantum technologies to solve mobility challenges, optimizing traffic light timing to reduce congestion in city. The researchers succeeded in reducing the waiting time of cars by 20% compared to conventional optimization methods.
“We have already seen exciting work from clients and partners in the areas of traffic optimization, financial modeling, transportation and logistics, materials design, and much more. », Says Julie Love. “I am very excited to see the new ideas developers come up with once they have the tools and solutions in their hands, especially for solutions to our biggest climate and environmental challenges. “
Along with operating the Azure Quantum platform, Microsoft is currently developing its own quantum computer, but the technology is not advanced enough to compete with other cloud-based quantum processors. The technology giant is pursuing a method different from that of its competitors, based on a “topological qubit” which, according to Microsoft, will be protected from noise and allow information to be better preserved.