OVH, the European cloud business, recently announced the purchase of its first quantum system as part of its long-term plans to build a quantum environment for developers and other users.
The company takes a pragmatic approach, viewing it as a technology that has a long way to go before it lives up to expectations, but is nevertheless important enough for organizations to do their homework and be prepared for when quantum technology is more mature.
Register recently spoke with OVH CTO Thierry Souche, who shared his views on quantum computing and the company’s roadmap.
Souche revealed that he took some time to educate himself on quantum technology and how it works, and said it’s something he strongly suggests other executives should consider doing.
“I was always struggling to understand how a quantum computer would work and why it was such a radical change compared to classical computing,” he said.
“So taking at least a day and a half or two of training just to do the basics, the quantum Hello World if you will, helped me understand a lot of why it could be so different, but also the limitations associated with the technology, and especially because it won’t be a do-it-all type of technology and classical computing would still be needed.”
His view of quantum technology, after training, is to think of it as almost the opposite of how a conventional computer works, right at the lowest level of hardware. And that’s basically where quantum computers are right now: still at a primitive level, comparable to where classical computers were more than 50 years ago.
“When you consider a classical computer, you have a piece of silicon with several gates that combined will define a circuit that implements certain logic. So, the static there are the gates, millions of them, and the flow is electrons,” Souche said.
“Quantum computing is actually the opposite. If you consider one of the technologies, cold atoms, what is static is the information you store. And the dynamic part is how you apply a gate to the atoms. Applying a gate actually means obtain an atom-specific gate at a specific excitation level.”
In this example, that means applying a beam of energy to that single atom, and the way it is applied (the energy level, the spectrum, the duration) serves as the gate.
It is very easy to make the decision to invest at a dead end.
“So you flow dynamically in the logic, while what you keep static is the memory, which is completely the opposite of what you do with a classical computer,” Souche said.
Regardless of whether this way of looking at quantum is useful to you or not, Souche believes that the kind of basic training he received would help decision makers in all organizations at least understand how different quantum is, why they need to think about do it differently, and try to understand how you can use it in your business.
“While the technology will be great and nice, it is still in the experimental phase and will not cover each and every problem, especially if the nature of the problem being solved is not amenable to a particular quantum technology. What if? If you don’t understand, you could very easily make the decision to invest in a dead end,” Souche told us.
These quantum technologies use different ways of representing qubits, or quantum bits, and a variety of them are being developed, including trapped ions, quantum dots, and superconducting circuits. Some of these technologies may be more suitable for certain applications than others.
“I think a lot of decision makers and their teams need to go down that path to be able to evaluate whether there is a competitive advantage to going with quantum technology, or whether classical computing will work just as well. They need to know where they should never try to use quantum technology because will not produce anything,” Souche said.
“What is certain is that there are very few people trained. So if you wake up too late, you simply won’t find anyone available to help you evaluate whether or not this is the technology you choose for you. But if you start training “You, your people now, have a good chance of having internal people who can do the assessment for you. We already know that for some industries this is likely to be a game-changer.”
The areas where OVH believes this technology is a great fit are chemistry and molecular folding modeling. “When you need to model real, real-life molecules with thousands of atoms or more, you can’t do it with conventional computing. But we believe that within a few years you will achieve it with a quantum computer,” Souche said. us.
However, “when you think about day-to-day business applications, like accounting or CRM, don’t dream about quantum technology, I don’t think it will help you,” he added.
OVH continues to believe that organizations need to at least start looking at quantum technology and how it may impact their line of business in the future. “Don’t be taken by surprise” is the key takeaway.
Therefore, according to Souche, the company itself invests in quantum technology to help customers in this process.
Don’t wait especially to train your people. Because they will be the greatest asset of the transformation that is coming.
“Today, we already offer quantum services, but it is emulation. And we offer it for a variety of technologies. Emulation, which is backed by powerful conventional computing, already gives many companies the ability to evaluate the type of algorithms that could want to try,” he said.
“We are working with several companies and, to start, we will expose their machines in their data centers through our cloud. And then we have plans, but I can’t say more yet, for various types of machines to be installed in our data centers “But that is more for the future because they are not prepared,” Souche added, explaining that some require cryogenic cooling “and outside of a laboratory environment that is not a good thing.”
Looking ahead, the CTO believes that at least five or six quantum technologies will emerge in the near future, and this could be reduced to one or two over time.
“But currently no one can give me a plausible explanation for why someone might be better off in the future than another. They all come with trade-offs, and none of them are ready to scale tomorrow. There are always many trade-offs.” “So it’s still very speculative,” she said.
“But I would still say don’t wait. Don’t wait especially to train your people. Because they will be the biggest asset in the transformation that’s coming.”
Chirag Dekate, vice president analyst at Gartner, told us that there is so much hype around quantum technology that many in the industry end up polarized between quantum skepticism and those who promote it as some kind of nirvana that will solve all problems.
“With uncertain macroeconomic conditions, this polarization is likely to worsen, as companies chase ever-shrinking reserves of money in their quest for survival,” he said, stating that most quantum startups will struggle to overcome the cycle. of the market that has already begun.
Dekate said Gartner knows of more than 300 companies that are in different phases of their quantum journeys, and while most are just getting started, a growing minority are already investing millions in creating intellectual property and building relationships with vendors and relevant service providers. ®