IBM to open quantum computing data centre in Europe in 2024
Image credit: Photo 142512496 © Siarhei Yurchanka | Dreamstime.com
IBM's first Europe-based quantum data centre will aim to facilitate access to "cutting-edge quantum computing" while complying with the EU's data privacy rules.
The facility will be located in Ehningen, Germany. It will host multiple IBM quantum computing systems, each with utility-scale quantum processors of more than 100 qubits, the company has said.
The quantum data centre will serve as IBM Quantum’s European cloud region, with the goal of providing access to these new technologies for research institutes, companies and public organisations in the region.
“Our goal is to bring useful quantum computing to the world. To me, that means we have to bring access,” Jay Gambetta, IBM Fellow and Vice President of IBM Quantum, told reporters in a briefing.
While most computers process data in bits, with a binary value of either zero or one, quantum computers use a two-state unit for data processing called a qubit, which represents several digits simultaneously through a process known as superposition. By being able to bridge binary digits, and cope with high levels of uncertainty, the devices can make highly complex calculations that cannot be done by regular computers.
IBM has declared 2023 as the year it will begin realising ‘quantum-centric supercomputing’. As part of this push, Gambetta described the data centre announcement as marking a new stage in the development of quantum computing: the transition from "awareness" to "utility".
"This utility phase is where useful quantum computing is demonstrated and, alongside high-performance computing, provides real-world value," Gambetta said. “Over the next few years, we will see many examples emerge of what we can do on a quantum computer that we can’t do on a classical computer.
"We are going to start to see use cases begin to emerge. It is all going to be machines with 100 qubits or more, running circuits reaching the limits of 100 by 100.”
The establishment of a new IBM European Cloud Region also marks a significant development and is expected to allow EU users to ensure that their personal and professional data is protected and stays under European borders - as required by GDPR.
"This is a very exciting day for us in Europe and in research," said Ana Paula de Jesus, IBM general manager for Europe Middle East and Africa. "This is another step in the direction of bringing additional innovation to Europe.
"Europe is home to many of our research centres, and having that additional investment here shows our commitment to the region and the understanding of the requirements of privacy and sovereignty."
“At T-Systems, we are collaborating with IBM to combine quantum and classical computing in a seamless and scalable experience for our customers to explore applications of quantum computing,” said Adel Al-Saleh, Deutsche Telekom board member and chief executive of T-Systems. “Having access to a quantum data centre dedicated to Europe will help lower the access barrier for our customers as they decide on how to take their first, decisive steps in exploring and using quantum.”
Quantum computing has been on the rise over the past few years, with experts suggesting that the technology could provide up to £4bn of economic opportunities globally by 2024 alone, while productivity gains could surpass over £341bn within the next few decades.
Some of the potential uses for quantum computing include materials science, high-energy physics, energy transition, sustainability, and financial applications.
The UK has shown ambitions to be the world’s first quantum-ready economy. As part of this, the UK pledged £10m of funding in 2020 to build the country’s first quantum computer.
In February, UK scientists made a quantum computing breakthrough, when they were able to use electric field links to enable qubits to move from one quantum computing microchip module to another with unprecedented speed and precision.
Earlier this year, IBM announced its plans to cut around 3,900 jobs, amounting to 1.5 per cent of its global workforce. The layoffs have costed the company about $300m (£242m).
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