AWS launches quantum computing service for developers

AWS has made an early bid to dominate quantum computing with the launch of a managed platform that will allow developers to design quantum algorithms and run them on a range of esoteric hardware.

If the prospect of programming using qubits instead of regular bits doesn’t immediately grab you, the cloud giant’s evangelist in chief Geoff Barr used the launch of the Braket service to raise the possibility that quantum computing rendering current cryptography models useless – at least in a few decades or so.

If the theory behind quantum computing is brain-hurting the actual hardware is, as Barr writes, “scarce, and…must be run in carefully controlled physical environments.” 

Barr wrote that AWS’ aim “to let you get some hands-on experience with qubits and quantum circuits. You can build and test your circuits in a simulated environment and then run them on an actual quantum computer.”

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While the possibilities may be endless, the reality of actually developing for AWS’ service should be relatively familiar, as “you can use fully managed Jupyter notebooks directly from the Amazon Braket console”.

Developing and testing of the algorithms is done on “classical hardware…to accelerate algorithm development by making it easy to troubleshoot code and optimize designs. Amazon Braket runs simulations as a fully managed service, automatically setting up the required compute instances, running the simulation, publishing results to Amazon S3, and turning off resources when complete.”

As for those non-classical computing options, the page for the service lists “gate based superconductor computers from Rigetti, quantum annealing superconductor computers from D-Wave, and ion trap computers from IonQ.”

Barr adds, “These devices have a couple of things in common: they are leading-edge tech, they are expensive to build and run, and they generally operate in a very extreme and specialized environment (supercooled or near-vacuum) that must be kept free of electrical, thermal, and magnetic noise.”

And, Barr adds, “Taken together, I think it is safe to say that most organizations will never own a quantum computer, and will find the cloud-based on-demand model a better fit. It may well be the case that production-scale quantum computers are the first cloud-only technology.” Which might explain why AWS is so keen to get the technology into developers’ hands. Sort of.

Parallel to the launch of the Braket service, the company is forming the AWS Centre for Quantum Computing, “adjacent to the CalTech campus”. It has also launched the Amazon Quantum SOlutions Lab, with Barr saying, “Our goal is to work with you to find those practical uses, and to help you to build up your own “bench” of qualified quantum developers.”

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