Microsoft has announced Azure Quantum, describing it as a full-stack, open cloud ecosystem. Among the partners that form part of the ‘diverse set of quantum solutions’ that are included are Honeywell, 1QBit, IonQ, and QCI. The announcement was made at Microsoft’s Ignite 2019 developer conference.
The new service is a mix of tools already available on Azure and quantum devices from the partners Honeywell, 1QBit, IonQ and QCI. The new service will be launched in a private preview later this year. Microsoft says that while the quantum computers are currently not powerful to be used for real work, developers should take the opportunity to play with the quantum algorithms and hardware now to be ready in the future.
Microsoft has chosen partners who offer two distinct ways of building quantum computers. The devices from Honeywell and IonQ use individual ions trapped in electromagnetic fields to encode data, while QCI’s device uses superconducting metal circuits. IonQ grew out of research from the University of Maryland, while QCI builds on research from Yale university.
1QBit has developed a ‘hardware-agnostic platform’ used for materials simulation called QEMIST, which stands for Quantum-Enabled Molecular ab Initio Simulation Toolkit. QEMIST can be used to calculate molecular properties by using quantum computing alongside advanced problem decomposition (PD) techniques. It can be used to run massively parallel simulations by breaking down a computational chemistry task into smaller, independent subproblems. QEMIST is developed mainly in Python, and its API is integrated with the Microsoft Quantum Development Kit for the simulation of larger molecules.
Microsoft’s Quantum Development Kit aims to provide a scalable end-to-end quantum development environment. It uses the Q# quantum programming language, which can be used to perform quantum algorithm design, compilation, and simulation. Alongside this, the kit includes domain-specific libraries such as the Microsoft Quantum Chemistry Library. It can also be used in Python through the qsharp PyPI package. The Quantum Development Kit is open-source and available on GitHub.
Microsoft’s own quantum hardware was conspicuously missing from the launch. Microsoft has been working on a noise-resistant topological qubit designed for longer-lived, higher-complexity computations, but it isn’t ready yet, though Chetan Nayak, general manager for quantum hardware at Microsoft says that the group is very excited about the progress it has been making.
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