Adapting data centres to facilitate quantum computers

As quantum computing becomes increasingly important to businesses, Technology Magazine explores why it is important data centres adapt to this technology

Quantum computers have become increasingly important over the past few years. Historically, many have relied on supercomputers to solve problems, but this type of technology now isn’t sufficient at solving all problems as technology becomes more complex and multifaceted.

Bridging this gap, quantum computers have the working memory to hold different combinations of information to tackle real-world problems, which supercomputers lack. As well as being faster, quantum computers can create multidimensional spaces which represent the large problems supercomputers fail to tackle.

“Quantum computers represent a complete paradigm shift from classical computers,” said Peter Chapman, CEO and President of IonQ.

“The key difference is that quantum computers harness the properties of quantum mechanics (namely, superposition and entanglement), allowing a new way of programming that is exponentially more powerful than what is possible with binary code. We don’t expect them to completely replace classical computers, but to act as powerful co-processors, working alongside classical systems on the specific computational tasks that they can do faster and better than classical systems, much like GPU clusters are used today.” 

By incorporating infrastructure to host these computers into their facilities, data centre providers will be able to provide customers with better services to improve their businesses. 

It is key that data centres evolve to facilitate these computers as businesses can tackle wide-scale and complex problems such as financial risk management, drug discovery, macroeconomic modelling and molecular modelling with this technology.

Chapman explained: “Data centres are the computing backbone of businesses worldwide, and already, quantum computing is demonstrating how its unique capabilities can transform vital tasks like machine learning.”

“Quantum computers’ ability to optimise complex networks may indeed become helpful one day in streamlining future data centres,” he added.

McKinsey estimated that the global market value of the quantum computing market will reach $1 trillion by 2035. With this huge growth, particularly only a few years ago this technology was considered nascent, businesses in many sectors have started to take advantage of its capabilities.

To remain the “computing backbone” of businesses, data centres need to respond to the changing computational needs of its customers.

Meeting the needs of this new technologies to improve data centre services 

As businesses look to adopt new technologies to improve efficiencies, quantum computing is becoming the most beneficial option.

To shed light on the benefits of quantum computing, Andrew Jenkinson, Group CEO of Cybersec Innovation Partners, spoke to Technology Magazine, he said: “Speed and computation capabilities are the main advantages of quantum computing. I believe we will see quantum computing as a service due to high investment costs and storage requirements.” 

As the need for these computers grows, data centres and colocation services will need to adapt their infrastructure to host such technologies. Something that data centre providers need to consider when looking to implement this infrastructure is the data centre cooling quantum computing requires to keep up with its demand and instability of quantum bits (qubits).

A qubit is the quantum-mechanical analogue of a classical bit. In classical computing, information is encoded in bits whereas in quantum computing information is encoded in qubits.

Although this is seen as a large blockage in the introduction of quantum computing into data centre facilities, Jenkinson argues “the development of post-quantum cryptography (PQC) will continue to make life easier.”

He continued: “The colder temperatures may always remain, however, this may simply mean cold storage data centres in addition to today’s ambient temperature environments.”

Interestingly, Chapman believes it is a common misconception that all quantum computers need cold temperatures. He explained: “Most data centres today are likely already suitable for quantum computers; what needs to change are the quantum computers themselves since it will become necessary for quantum computer manufacturers to create rack-mounted devices that fit in naturally with a data centre.” 

He continued: “This requires shrinking down the size of the quantum computers and networking them together to increase their power.”

Remaining competitive with quantum computing infrastructure

Undoubtedly, the introduction of quantum computers at scale in data centre infrastructures will, and already has started to, reshape the data centre architecture from both a networking and security perspective.

Chapman however stressed that data centres should not dramatically change in order to host these computers, he said: “As the technology matures and the market for these systems’ unique abilities grows, data centres are likely to need to support both classical and quantum computing approaches to remain commercially relevant”

Jenkinson also commented on the commercial opportunities hosting quantum computing technologies, however, he added a note of caution to data centre operators. This is particularly significant as the introduction of these computers will also ultimately lead to the appearance of the quantum network and quantum security.

He explained: “Currently, there is much speculation and gossip and hearsay, our main concern is that history is repeating itself in as much that nobody is considering the security side, just going at 100 mph to achieve working quantum computers. That is the same for IBM, Honeywell and others. Cloud computing is inherently unstable and insecure and is what many rely upon. Security is an afterthought.”

Adapting data centres to facilitate the new hybrid internet

Not only should data centre providers consider the security issues that come with quantum computing when they look to install the infrastructure to host it, but they should also “begin auditing the quantum computing landscape and identifying potential technological partners and geographies where investment makes the most sense,” Chapman explained. 

Continuing, he said: “Finance and quantum machine learning are emerging as two of the earliest places where quantum computing will have a revolutionary impact. Beyond that sector, pharmaceuticals, biological research and materials science are key areas to target.”

Quantum computing won’t replace typical computing, instead, it will run in conjunction with the classical internet to form a new hybrid internet. Although this will pose some key challenges, Chapman urges providers to recognise this technology to stay commercially relevant: “Data centres without a quantum strategy are likely to be behind the curve when quantum begins to propagate throughout the market and becomes table stakes.”

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