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AWS launches Braket quantum computing service

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Amazon Web Services (AWS) this week said it was making a quantum computing service available to scientists, researchers and developers.

The service, called Amazon Braket, will make use of quantum hardware from companies such as D-Wave, IonQ and Rigetti.

While the technology is still in its infancy, it’s thought that quantum machines will eventually be able to solve computational problems beyond the reach of what traditional, or classical, machines are able to do today. This holds great promise in fields such as energy storage, chemical engineering, genomic research and machine learning, among others. Meanwhile, the recent application of quantum computing has been limited by proof of concept studies with little practical use, said the company.

Making the announcement at its re:Invent conference in Las Vegas this week, AWS said it was also establishing a centre for quantum computing along with the California Institute of Technology, among other institutions, to collaborate on quantum research.

While those at the centre will work on solving longer-term technical quantum computing challenges, AWS said some of its customers are now ready to explore quantum computing. It said its customers are finding it hard to engage with quantum computing, particularly if they want to evaluate the technology. These customers also report there are few opportunities to develop the necessary skills.

Cloud first

Charlie Bell, senior VP of utility computing services at AWS, said in a statement he believes quantum computing will be a 'cloud-first technology', that the cloud will be the main way customers access quantum hardware.

Asked how AWS customers will make use of the quantum machines, Bill Vass, VP of engineering at AWS, said it was offering three different quantum technologies in the Braket programme – an Ion Q-based machine (which used trapped ions for quantum bits, or qubits), an electromagnetic Rigetti quantum and a quantum annealing machine made by D-Wave.

“Our focus is to work for some time with these partners and we’ll be working on the development and simulation environment and people will be able to learn and experiment with it. It’s amazing that we’re working with multiple machines. It’s probably the first time we’ve had two different quantum computers with different technologies passing data to each other over the cloud.”

He says these early machines in the 30-qubit range aren’t able to solve better problems than classical computers, but this is advancing rapidly.

It’s probably the first time we’ve had two different quantum computers with different technologies passing data to each other over the cloud.

Bill Vass, VP of engineering at AWS

Vass said the eventual aim is to incorporate quantum computers into the company’s offerings, and seamlessly integrate it with its services.

“The point of Braket right now is to give people a sense that they can do development and tests and understand what’s coming. There’s going to be some problems over the next couple of years that quantum computers will be able to solve that you can’t solve with today’s computers,”he said, adding that he didn’t want to ‘overhype’ the technology.

While ‘real things’ can be run on the machines at present, these computational problems could also be run on a classical computer.

“You can get real results sets, and do real outputs and do real work on the quantum computers today. But is it going to be better than what you can do on a classical computer right now? Probably not. But there are some things that it accelerates.”

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