cloud division said Thursday it has launched a commercial service that allows millions of customers to experiment with quantum computing platforms produced by three technology companies.
The launch follows a test period of about eight months of the service with academic institutions and companies including Fidelity Investments Inc.
Amazon Braket, part of Amazon Web Services, lets existing AWS customers experiment with early-stage quantum computing machines from D-Wave Systems Inc., IonQ Inc. and Rigetti Computing over its cloud.
By harnessing quantum physics, quantum computers have the potential to sort through a vast number of possibilities in nearly real time and come up with a probable solution. While traditional computers store information as either zeros or ones, quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, which represent and store information as both zeros and ones simultaneously.
computers are highly complex and expensive to build. But the technology has the potential to significantly speed up complex calculations ranging from traffic optimization to drug and materials discovery. The U.S. has been under pressure to accelerate its efforts in quantum computing, amid competition from China and other countries.
The quantum-computing companies that AWS customers can experiment with have different technological approaches. For example, IonQ’s method involves light and small particles to make its quantum chip work. D-Wave and Rigetti rely on superconducting qubits to power its processors.
“Different quantum computers will suit different types of problems, and we think it’s important that customers have the opportunity to try different machines against their problem set,” said Richard Moulds, general manager of Amazon Braket. The unit’s name refers to a “bra-ket,” a standard notation for describing quantum states.
Amazon Braket is expected to add more quantum computing providers to its platform in the coming months, Mr. Moulds said. Developers can use the same programming framework to develop algorithms that can run on the three hardware platforms, he said.
Cloud competitors to Amazon, such as
also offer quantum computing services and access to machines. The technology, though, is still in its early stages.
“What Amazon has done is put their stake in the ground,” said Chirag Dekate, vice president analyst at technology research firm
“They are trying to do as much as possible without physically owning a quantum computer.”
Corporate interest in quantum computing is picking up, Mr. Dekate said.
Gartner saw a 40.5% increase in client engagement around quantum computing during the first half of this year compared with the same period last year, with hundreds of client inquiries about the technology, Mr. Dekate said.
Amazon’s announcement comes amid fierce competition in the cloud computing arena. Amazon’s world-wide market share in the cloud slipped to 45% in 2019, down from about 48% in 2018, according to a report this week from Gartner.
Amazon still dominates the market, with Microsoft its nearest competitor. Microsoft’s world-wide market share in the cloud was nearly 18% in 2019, up from 15.6% the year before, according to Gartner.
Quantum computing has the potential to speed up certain financial calculations for Fidelity Investments, said Adam Schouela, head of emerging technology at the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology, which tests and evaluates cutting-edge technologies.
“We’re starting to see signs that it has the potential to become real and viable,” Mr. Schouela said. His team is experimenting with quantum computing services from AWS and other tech companies.
Fidelity has increased its focus on quantum computing in recent years in part because it’s becoming easier for coders to develop algorithms for quantum computers without needing to be experts in quantum hardware, he said.
In a recent test, Fidelity’s researchers used quantum computers running over Amazon’s cloud to build securities and generate price options for those securities. On conventional computers, those calculations can take hours. The experiment was completed “orders of magnitude faster” compared with a typical computer, Mr. Schouela said.
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