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IBM Announces New Quantum Processor and IBM Quantum System Two

IBM Announces New Quantum Processor and IBM Quantum System Two

The News: IBM made several announcements at its Quantum Summit this week, including the release of the IBM Quantum Heron processor, the release of IBM Quantum System Two architecture, new features in its Qiskit quantum programming software, and an extension of its publicly released quantum development roadmap. Considered together, the announcements are centered on IBM’s goal of advancing the era of quantum utility, which refers to quantum computers being able to solve problems at a scale beyond brute force classical simulation, prior to the development of fault-tolerant quantum computers. You can read a press release containing details of IBM’s quantum announcements at IBM’s website.

IBM Announces New Quantum Processor and IBM Quantum System Two

Analyst Take: IBM made several quantum computing-focused announcements this week at its Quantum Summit, including the debut of IBM Quantum Heron, the first in a new series of utility-scale quantum processors, the unveiling of IBM Quantum System Two, the company’s first modular quantum computer, new features within its Qiskit quantum programming software, and the release of an extended quantum development roadmap.

Each of the announcements, while achievements unto themselves, can be viewed as interconnected elements of a larger strategy of focusing on the development of an entire technology stack that can support the use of quantum computers to solve research problems within the next several years.

IBM Quantum Heron Processor Unveiled

The debut of the IBM Quantum Heron processor is noteworthy, largely because it is the first of IBM’s new class of processors that feature significantly improved error rates. IBM says that the 133-qubit Heron processor offers a five-times improvement over the previous best records set by IBM Eagle, the 127-qubit quantum processors previously developed by IBM.

IBM Announces New Quantum Processor and IBM Quantum System Two
Image Source: IBM

IBM Heron will now be available in the cloud, with several leading research universities, government agencies, and quantum-focus commercial organizations having already run experiments on the new system to demonstrate that it is capable of serving as a scientific tool to explore utility-scale classes of problems in chemistry, physics, and materials beyond brute force classical simulation of quantum mechanics.

IBM Quantum System Two Becomes a Building Block for Quantum-Centric Supercomputing

IBM also unveiled IBM Quantum System Two, the company’s first modular quantum computer and cornerstone of IBM’s quantum-centric supercomputing architecture. The first IBM Quantum System Two, located in Yorktown Heights, New York, has begun operations with three IBM Heron processors and supporting control electronics.

IBM Quantum System Two combines scalable cryogenic infrastructure and classical runtime servers with modular qubit control electronics and is designed to serve as a building block for IBM’s vision of quantum-centric supercomputing. This architecture brings together quantum communication and computation, assisted by classical computing resources, and leverages a middleware layer to integrate the quantum and classical workflows.

This announcement reflects the reality that in the near term, quantum computers are going to be used in conjunction with classical computing resources to solve problems, and having a stable architecture that can integrate these workflows is key to enabling utility-scale quantum computing. IBM plans for this system to house IBM’s future generations of quantum processors, which IBM says will gradually improve the quality of operations the company can run, thereby significantly extending the complexity and size of workloads IBM will be capable of handling.

IBM Releases an Extended 10-Year Quantum Computing Roadmap

IBM also released an extended, 10-year IBM Quantum Development Roadmap, which clearly lays out a development roadmap with both development and innovation targets through 2033. Development targets are defined as when technologies are actually in the hands of users, versus innovation targets, which describe internal milestones for proofs of concept or research and development milestones.

IBM Announces New Quantum Processor and IBM Quantum System Two
Image Source: IBM

The interesting element of this roadmap is the focus not on the number of qubits future systems will have but on the improvements to quantum circuit quality that will allow exponential growth in the number of gates. As the number of gates increases, the ability of a quantum processor to handle a much greater range of potential applications does as well, thereby further increasing the potential utility of quantum computers.

Qiskit and Generative AI to Increase Ease of Quantum Software Programming

IBM made several other announcements that demonstrate its push to create a full stack of tools to enable utility-scale quantum computing over the next several years. The company announced the release of Qiskit 1.0, its open source quantum application development software, which is scheduled for February 2024.

IBM also announced Qiskit Patterns, a framework designed to map classical problems, optimize them to quantum circuits using Qiskit, execute those circuits using Qiskit Runtime, and then postprocess the results. A Qiskit Pattern is an intuitive, repeatable set of steps for implementing a quantum computing workflow, which combined with Quantum Serverless, enables users to build, deploy, and execute workflows integrating classical and quantum computation in different environments, such as cloud or on-premises scenarios. All of these tools are designed to serve as building blocks for users to build and run quantum algorithms more easily.

IBM Staking a Claim to the Quantum Ecosystem

IBM’s announcements from its Quantum Summit seem to reflect the company’s desire to stake a claim to all parts of the quantum ecosystem, from the quantum processors and infrastructure, through cloud access to quantum resources, and across the software landscape, via the Qiskit application platform and related tools. While there is significant promise for quantum computing over the next several decades, IBM has realized that from a longer-term commercial perspective, the safe bet is to use its scale and might to participate in all facets of the ecosystem.

That said, as of today, quantum computers are still not ready for commercialization; IBM admits that the experiments and projects that are ongoing are largely research oriented. However, IBM is well positioned to benefit from the expected path of quantum, which will be marked by a stepwise progression of technical achievement over time, and given its breadth of activity and influence across the ecosystem, likely will be able to take advantage of unexpected quantum technology breakthroughs.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

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Image Credit: IBM

Author Information

Keith has over 25 years of experience in research, marketing, and consulting-based fields.

He has authored in-depth reports and market forecast studies covering artificial intelligence, biometrics, data analytics, robotics, high performance computing, and quantum computing, with a specific focus on the use of these technologies within large enterprise organizations and SMBs. He has also established strong working relationships with the international technology vendor community and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and events.

In his career as a financial and technology journalist he has written for national and trade publications, including BusinessWeek, CNBC.com, Investment Dealers’ Digest, The Red Herring, The Communications of the ACM, and Mobile Computing & Communications, among others.

He is a member of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP).

Keith holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Magazine Journalism and Sociology from Syracuse University.

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