Amazon’s initial foray into the heavily hyped world of quantum computing is a virtual sandbox in which companies can test potential quantum-enabled applications and generally get to grips with the new technology, the company announced Monday.
The product is named Braket, after a system of notation used in quantum physics. The idea, according to Amazon, is to democratize access to quantum computing in a small way. Most organizations aren’t going to own their own quantum computers for the foreseeable future; they’re impractically expensive and require a huge amount of infrastructure even for the limited proof-of-concept models at the current cutting-edge.
Hence, providing cloud-based access to three of those proofs-of-concept – the D-Wave 2000Q, Rigetti 16Q , Aspen-4 and IonQ linear ion trap – offers businesses the opportunity to learn firsthand about the way qubits work and how the basic building blocks of quantum programming might look. Braket will let users work remotely with those quantum computers or try out quantum algorithms in a classically driven simulated environment.
“Our goal is to make sure you know enough about quantum computing to start looking for some appropriate use cases and conducting some tests and experiments,” said chief AWS evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog post.
To help guide those efforts, Amazon also announced that it would form the AWS Center for Quantum Computing in partnership with Cal Tech. The idea here seems to be to create a center of excellence for research into both how quantum computers can be put to use and how they can be manufactured on a slightly larger scale. Furthermore, the new Amazon Quantum Solutions Lab would allow for a collaborative space in which companies can partner to share newfound expertise in quantum computing, as well as workshops and brainstorming sessions for education on quantum topics.
“Quantum computing is rapidly evolving, but the limited scale of the quantum hardware available today, fragmented development tools, and general shortage of quantum expertise, make it difficult to build near-term quantum applications,” said Amazon in a statement.
Quantum computing technology is still in the very early stages of development – something like classical computing in the days of the Bletchley Park codebreaking machines, or ENIAC at the latest. Yet major tech companies have been eager to grab headlines in the field. Google boasted in October of having achieved quantum supremacy, the ability to solve a problem with a quantum computer more quickly than with a classical one.
This sort of cloud-based quantum testbed isn’t a wholly new idea. IBM has offered its Q Experience platform since 2016, and the company recently announced that more than 10 million experiments have been run there to date. And Amazon’s cloud rival Microsoft announced its Azure Quantum service just last month, offering a similar combination of cloud access, quantum programming tools, and remote access to prototype quantum computers.