D-Wave prepping quantum computers to outperform conventional servers

D-Wave preparing a faster quantum computer with a 1,024-qubit processor for release this year

By , IDG News Service |  Hardware

D-Wave wants its quantum computer to surpass the performance of traditional computers in the coming years, and has a processor roadmap that could make that happen.

"We're at a point where we see that our current product is matching the performance of state-of-the-art traditional computers, which have had 70 years of innovation and trillions of dollars of investment. Over the next few years, we should surpass them," said Jeremy Hilton, D-Wave's vice president of processor development, in an email statement.

D-Wave is perhaps the only company that sells quantum computers, which take a radically different approach to computing compared to today's servers. Quantum computing has been researched for decades with the goal of building a stable system, and D-Wave introduced what was considered the first ever quantum computer in 2011. Researchers have predicted that quantum computers will replace today's fastest computers.

D-Wave last year introduced the second-generation quantum computer called D-Wave Two which has a "list price north of $10 million," according a research note from financial firm Sterne Agee on Wednesday. The note had a picture of a D-Wave Two with a list price of $15 million.

D-Wave has been secretive about pricing, which a company spokesperson said depends on the customer and needs. But last November the company said the quantum computer could be available for "lease."

Quantum computing is based on the laws of quantum mechanics, which look at interaction and behavior of matter on atomic and subatomic levels. At the heart of a quantum computer are quantum bits (qubits), which interact with each other, and the goal is to speed up computing by storing and sharing data in more states rather than the usual 0s and 1s in digital computing. But many issues still have to be resolved, one of which is quantum noise, in which qubits are sent into undesirable states after which users lose control of programs being executed.

Quantum computers from D-Wave have been deployed by organizations including Google, NASA and Lockheed-Martin, though it is not clear if the systems were purchased. The D-Wave Two has a 512 qubit processor, and the company has a 1,000 qubit processor undergoing tests in labs and due for release later this year. D-Wave has said it will release a 2,048-core processor in 2015.

"We are laser focused on the performance of the machine, understanding how the technology is working so we can continue to improve it and solve real world problems," Hilton said.

Pioneering systems are expensive, but the US$15 million tag for D-Wave Two is reasonable considering the price of some supercomputers, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

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