Rigetti launches ‘only quantum first cloud computing platform’ and $1m prize

Partners with Adelaide-born quantum start-up QxBranch

Quantum circuit maker Rigetti has launched Quantum Cloud Services (QCS), which it claims to be the only “quantum-first cloud computing platform”.

The platform integrates the company’s quantum processors with classical computing infrastructure to deliver the “application-level performance needed to achieve quantum advantage”.

Quantum advantage is the term for the point at which quantum computers are able to solve problems faster and cheaper than their classical counterparts.

“Ultimately, quantum advantage will be reached over and over again in new markets and new domains, changing the ways in which problems are solved across industries,” company founder Chad Rigetti wrote in a blog post last week.

In August the company announced plans to deploy a 128-qubit, classical integrated system within a year.

With QCS, users access these integrated systems through a dedicated Quantum Machine Image (QMI). The QMI is a virtualized programming and execution environment designed for users to develop and run quantum software applications and hybrid quantum-classical algorithms.

Each QMI come pre-configured with Rigetti’s SDK, Forest 2.0.

Early access to QCS has been given to a small number of quantum focused start-ups, among them QxBranch, which was founded in Adelaide.

“Our new partnership with Rigetti is particularly exciting because it gives us access to one of the most advanced quantum computing systems available today to test these applications on real hardware,” QxBranch CEO Michael Brett told Computerworld.

“The first exercise we have planned is fit a quantum machine learning algorithm we have previously developed for use with the Rigetti framework. Once up and running, the tool will allow users to leverage quantum computing to improve the training time and accuracy of algorithms for image classification,” he added.

Rigetti is a relative minnow in the quantum computing space, up against the likes of Microsoft, Google and IBM.

Some of its competitors have also been making their quantum machines available via the cloud.

IBM released its cloud-enabled quantum computing platform, dubbed the IBM Quantum Experience, in 2016. A score of commercial and research clients – including the University of Melbourne – were given cloud-based access to the initiative in December last year. Sydney quantum technology company Q-Ctrl gained access in April.

In July, Google revealed its intention to make its 72 qubit Bristlecone quantum processor available in the cloud. Access to Bristlecone will come via Google’s open source framework for running algorithms on the quantum computers called Cirq.

Quantum advantage

Demonstrating quantum advantage – sometimes referred to as quantum supremacy – will be a huge achievement for the field.

Essentially it will be achieved when a computational task is performed with an existing quantum device which cannot be performed using any known algorithm running on an existing classical supercomputer in a reasonable amount of time.

While achieving it is still an ‘if’ for some, others are more bullish.

“We think the first conclusive demonstration of quantum advantage is within sight over the next year or so. The quantum computing hardware companies are producing machines that are more and more capable and software companies, like QxBranch, are providing feedback on the features and improvements we need to realise applicators,” Brett said.

“The tighter that feedback loop, the more likely it is we’ll be able to work together to demonstrate some form of quantum advantage soon. There will likely be many milestones like this over the next few years as we gain a better understanding of the machines and the use cases,” he added.

To accelerate the effort, Rigetti also revealed a US$1 million prize for the first conclusive demonstration of quantum advantage on QCS. Details of the prize will be announced next month.

“We don’t know when the first demonstration of quantum advantage will be achieved, or what shape it will take, but one thing is certain: it will dramatically accelerate progress in unlocking the power of quantum computing for everyone,” Rigetti said.

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