Hyperion Tackles Elusive Quantum Computing Landscape

By John Russell

March 13, 2018

Quantum computing – exciting and off-putting all at once – is a kaleidoscope of technology and market questions whose shapes and positions are far from settled. Hyperion Research (formerly IDC’s HPC group) is now ramping up efforts to aggressively track this emerging sector. Led by Bob Sorensen, who recently added chief analyst for quantum computing to his title of VP of research and technology, a big chunk of next month’s HPC User Forum agenda (April 16-18), organized and run by Hyperion, is devoted to quantum computing and will serve as a kind of introduction to the new practice.

Hyperion, of course, is hardly alone. Quantum computing is garnering attention from all quarters including market watchers, technology developers, industrial users, and governments alike. Notably, additional funding for quantum computing was included in the Trump administration’s latest budget request for the U.S. exascale computing program (see HPCwire article: And So It Begins…Again – The FY19 Exascale Budget Rollout). That quantum computing is (or will be) important seems agreed upon. Among organizations with quantum presentations at the next HPC User Forum are Google, Microsoft, Intel, Rigetti Computing, NASA, NIST, MIT, IBM, and D-Wave.

Bob Sorensen, VP of research and technology and chief analyst for quantum computing, Hyperion

In a wide-ranging conversation with HPCwire, Sorensen discussed the triggers for Hyperion’s increased attention to quantum computing, emerging geopolitical rivalries in QC, the need for algorithm and application development, and outlined some of the goals for Hyperion’s quantum computing tracking plans; the breadth of some of the latter may surprise you.

“We have been tracking quantum computing development for a number of years, almost in a maintenance mode kind of a way where if there was an interesting development we kept in touch,” said Sorensen. “What happened in the last few years is we have moved beyond the stage where we are tracking interesting physical qubit development – the idea that Google or IBM or Microsoft or Rigetti has an interesting new design for a qubit piece of hardware. It’s moved now more into what we consider to be the stages of a more complete quantum computing (QC) ecosystem that encompasses hardware, software, application development and perhaps most importantly QC algorithms.”

Fundamentally and for the longest time, said Sorensen, quantum computing was a solution looking for a problem. Now, instead of just chasing qubit technology – and lots of that is still going on – it’s about identifying use cases and building tools and including domain specialists.

“IBM is a company that gets it. It’s not only developing this quantum computing hardware, but also putting out an ecosystem that allows people to play with a quantum computing simulator in a relatively low barrier-to-entry kind of way, accessible through the cloud, that encourages people to start to think about how you develop QC algorithms that matter. To me that was the final tick in the check list that said this is going to take off now,” said Sorensen. “Once we start to see some sophisticated algorithms coming out then the next step is when can we start to pump those it applications.”

Ever hear of Shor’s algorithm? Everyone else has too! That was a problem, said Sorensen. In spite of the hype there really haven’t been many new and interesting quantum computing algorithms. A handful of uses cases have dominated the discussion. Acquiring a better understanding of nitrogen fixation processes is a favorite. And it’s important. But others are needed and the new tools will foster their development. There are many problems whose solutions are largely intractable with classical von Newmann computing architecture but which seem well suited for quantum computing.

“It’s not just about building the hardware anymore. So IBM has a quantum simulator. You’ve got Atos which is making a simulator of a quantum system available – they are going to sell an appliance which in some sense is a nice little supercomputer in a box that has all the outward appearances of a quantum computer. Again, that’s trying to foster the ecosystem around algorithms and applications in addition to the hardware. Look at Rigetti. I love the fact they call themselves a full stack QC company, which means they are going all the way from essentially building the QC hardware all the way up offering programming language and an application development environment.”

“One of the things I am hoping this program draws attention for is the idea of collecting quantum computing grand challenges as we used to have in the HPC world. What were the big problems of the day that we needed HPC for,” said Sorensen. “The compelling issue of grand challenges is they were accessible to someone who didn’t have to know what HPC was or MPI was or multicore programing. They just knew that this machine could solve a compelling use case in pharmaceuticals, in oil and gas, in medical technology and that was enough. What I am hoping for now is to gather counterpart quantum computing grand challenges.”

Sorensen has broad goals for the new practice. He has also reached out to the quantum computing community seeking participation on an expert panel to help guide Hyperion efforts and stimulate the quantum computing conversation more generally. That said, there are the usual market analysis questions.

“How big of a market will there be for quantum computing and how will it break out? How much hardware? How much software? How many of these [quantum] simulators? How will this affect the HPC sector? Where will the revenue streams come from? If we could wave the magic wand and come up with a nice market forecast for the next five or six years out, that was highly credible and based on insight, at this point that would be a Holy Grail. That’s not going to happen I think the very near future,” said Sorensen

“This entire field is in a huge state of flux right now. I wouldn’t even call it the Wild West. It may be another decade before it is the Wild West. All we are trying to do is get a sense of what the experts, the people who are involved in the day to day issues of pushing this technology forward, what do they think about where this is all going. [At least initially] I think what we are going to find is there is no right answer. We are just staking out the landscape boundaries.”

An important element in understanding quantum computing’s boundaries is figuring out how ubiquitous it will be. Sorensen currently inclines towards the special purpose machine camp.

“I see quantum as an always-somewhat-esoteric branch of computing and I’d liken it to, would you buy a Cray to check your email? Because of competing price performance issues you will always go towards the system that does the job at the best level of price-performance and there are huge quantities of things that quantum computing will never do that will justify that kind of price performance model. You know, simple transaction processing. Making sure that when you order a sweater from Amazon it gets shipped the next day. I don’t see quantum becoming the end-all-be-all when it comes to the computational platform of say 2030 or 2040. At least for the next 20 or 30 years I think it is going to be…I don’t want to say a niche technology, but perhaps a tactical technology, one that has a very specific set of use cases,” said Sorensen.

Those uses cases, however, may turn out to be disproportionately pivotal. Solving the nitrogen fixation problem could be game-changing in fighting world hunger. VW is already experimenting with D-Wave’s adiabatic annealing quantum computer – an admittedly special purpose machine – for understanding traffic management patterns. A fair amount of early global jockeying for the lead in quantum computing has emerged.

Sorensen, a long-time technology analyst in the U.S. government before joining Hyperion, said, “Technology development at the pointy end of the spear can move in fits and starts where country X or Y can have one- or two-year lead. The implications of those technology leads can take longer to play out and require a myriad of other factors to come into play before it can realize either a geopolitical or economic or military sense. I am not deeply concerned about the impact about say a China or perhaps even a pariah nation pulling ahead in quantum computing.”

The U.S., Europe, and China are steaming ahead with vigorous quantum programs. Less is known about what some other rival geopolitical regions are doing in QC.

“Europe and China are putting a lot of interest in this, and the U.S has a long history. To me there’s the issue the balance between centralized government programs and market-based activity. You’ve got an $11 billion quantum project in China right now where they are literally putting all of their eggs in one large facility to develop QC. Then you’ve got the U.S. model in which there certainly is a government element but also much more of an entrepreneurial spirit. You can’t argue that companies like Google and IBM and Rigetti and Microsoft don’t have their own innovative capabilities here that are independent of what is going at U.S. government sites. So there’s a certain vitality there,” said Sorensen.

“The EU has large government programs, which may not have the full breadth of commercial development activities [the U.S. has], but I think they view this as one of the most level playing fields in advanced technologies that they have seen in a long time and that their history and current capabilities stack up with anybody else in the world. I think they want to build on that.”

Clearly much remains unclear about quantum computing’s future. That’s probably good news for Hyperion and other analysts – the murky waters need some clearing. Sorensen has high hope for the growth of Hyperion’s quantum expertise. Moreover, just as the HPC User Forum has provided a platform for stimulating discussion and influencing HPC policy, Sorensen thinks Hyperion can play a role in QC.

“One of the things I’m hoping we can at least play a role in is the idea of thinking about quantum computing benchmarks. Right now, if you read the popular press, and I say ‘IBM’ and the first thing you think of is, yes they have a 50-qubit system. That doesn’t mean much to anybody other than it’s one more qubit than a 49-qubit system. What I am thinking about is asking these people how can we start to characterize across a number of different abstractions and implementations to gain a sense of how we can measure progress,” said Sorensen.

“What is a benchmark that says it’s progressing the state of quantum computing forward based on these [agreed upon] kinds of performance parameters or metrics. As I’ve said to people in the past, I don’t want to end up with a Q-impact where we have a one-size-fits-all benchmark that forces us in some sense or strongly encourages development in a direction that may not be the best and only relies on something the way some people say LINPACK does.”

Grand goals aside near-term progress on many specific fronts, error correction and algorithm development, for example, are needed said Sorensen. He worries quantum computing may fall victim to the “trough of despair” as AI once did.

“There are pitfalls ahead in the next few years. If quantum computing is not done right we could see the trough of despair lead to the AI nuclear winter that we saw in 80s and 90s when there was a huge promise for AI and everyone thought it was going to save the world and it got difficult. It was overpromised and it disappeared for almost 20 years. I know that because I am looking at all of my graduate school text books on AI and many of them mention convolutional neural networks. I’m worried that quantum computing may be oversold from the investment perspective. We want to scope out the landscape instead of just coming at it and saying here we are. We want a good understanding of that and the first step,” said Sorensen.

Link to upcoming HPC User Forum agenda: https://hpcuserforum.com/downloads/agenda.pdf

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

What’s New in HPC Research: Rabies, Smog, Robots & More

October 14, 2019

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ll get there at last month’s MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab’s AI Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Simulates Braking – on Mars

October 14, 2019

NASA is planning to send humans to Mars by the 2030s – and landing on the surface will be considerably trickier than landing a rover like Curiosity. To solve the problem, NASA researchers are using the world’s fastes Read more…

By Staff report

Chaminade University’s Immersion Program Builds Capacity for Data Science in Hawaii, Pacific Region

October 10, 2019

Kuleana is a uniquely Hawaiian value and practice which embodies responsibility to self, community, and the ‘aina' (land). At Chaminade University, a federally designated Native Hawaiian serving university in Hawai‘i Read more…

By Faith Singer-Villalobos

Trovares Drives Memory-Driven, Property Graph Analytics Strategy with HPE

October 10, 2019

Trovares, a high performance property graph analytics company, has partnered with HPE and its Superdome Flex memory-driven servers on a cybersecurity capability the companies say “routinely” runs near-time workloads on 24TB-capacity systems... Read more…

By Doug Black

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Intel FPGAs: More Than Just an Accelerator Card

FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) acceleration cards are not new, as they’ve been commercially available since 1984. Typically, the emphasis around FPGAs has centered on the fact that they’re programmable accelerators, and that they can truly offer workload specific hardware acceleration solutions without requiring custom silicon. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

HPC in the Cloud: Avoid These Common Pitfalls

[Connect with LSF users and learn new skills in the IBM Spectrum LSF User Community.]

It seems that everyone is experimenting about cloud computing. Read more…

Intel, Lenovo Join Forces on HPC Cluster for Flatiron

October 9, 2019

An HPC cluster with deep learning techniques will be used to process petabytes of scientific data as part of workload-intensive projects spanning astrophysics to genomics. AI partners Intel and Lenovo said they are providing... Read more…

By George Leopold

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Simulates Braking – on Mars

October 14, 2019

NASA is planning to send humans to Mars by the 2030s – and landing on the surface will be considerably trickier than landing a rover like Curiosity. To solve Read more…

By Staff report

Trovares Drives Memory-Driven, Property Graph Analytics Strategy with HPE

October 10, 2019

Trovares, a high performance property graph analytics company, has partnered with HPE and its Superdome Flex memory-driven servers on a cybersecurity capability the companies say “routinely” runs near-time workloads on 24TB-capacity systems... Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel, Lenovo Join Forces on HPC Cluster for Flatiron

October 9, 2019

An HPC cluster with deep learning techniques will be used to process petabytes of scientific data as part of workload-intensive projects spanning astrophysics to genomics. AI partners Intel and Lenovo said they are providing... Read more…

By George Leopold

Optimizing Offshore Wind Farms with Supercomputer Simulations

October 9, 2019

Offshore wind farms offer a number of benefits; many of the areas with the strongest winds are located offshore, and siting wind farms offshore ameliorates many of the land use concerns associated with onshore wind farms. Some estimates say that, if leveraged, offshore wind power... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Harvard Deploys Cannon, New Lenovo Water-Cooled HPC Cluster

October 9, 2019

Harvard's Faculty of Arts & Sciences Research Computing (FASRC) center announced a refresh of their primary HPC resource. The new cluster, called Cannon after the pioneering American astronomer Annie Jump Cannon, is supplied by Lenovo... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NSF Announces New AI Program; Plans $120M in Funding Next Year

October 8, 2019

As the saying goes, when you’re hot, you’re hot. Right now, AI is scalding. Today the National Science Foundation announced a new AI initiative – The National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes program – with plans to invest about “$120 million in grants next year... Read more…

By Staff report

DOE Sets Sights on Accelerating AI (and other) Technology Transfer

October 3, 2019

For the past two days DOE leaders along with ~350 members from academia and industry gathered in Chicago to discuss AI development and the ways in which industr Read more…

By John Russell

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chinese Company Sugon Placed on US ‘Entity List’ After Strong Showing at International Supercomputing Conference

June 26, 2019

After more than a decade of advancing its supercomputing prowess, operating the world’s most powerful supercomputer from June 2013 to June 2018, China is keep Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hardware That Powered the Black Hole Image

June 24, 2019

Two months ago, the first-ever image of a black hole took the internet by storm. A team of scientists took years to produce and verify the striking image – an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Intel Confirms Retreat on Omni-Path

August 1, 2019

Intel Corp.’s plans to make a big splash in the network fabric market for linking HPC and other workloads has apparently belly-flopped. The chipmaker confirmed to us the outlines of an earlier report by the website CRN that it has jettisoned plans for a second-generation version of its Omni-Path interconnect... Read more…

By Staff report

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Intel Debuts Pohoiki Beach, Its 8M Neuron Neuromorphic Development System

July 17, 2019

Neuromorphic computing has received less fanfare of late than quantum computing whose mystery has captured public attention and which seems to have generated mo Read more…

By John Russell

Rise of NIH’s Biowulf Mirrors the Rise of Computational Biology

July 29, 2019

The story of NIH’s supercomputer Biowulf is fascinating, important, and in many ways representative of the transformation of life sciences and biomedical res Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Bits: Neven’s Law (Who Asked for That), D-Wave’s Steady Push, IBM’s Li-O2- Simulation

July 3, 2019

Quantum computing’s (QC) many-faceted R&D train keeps slogging ahead and recently Japan is taking a leading role. Yesterday D-Wave Systems announced it ha Read more…

By John Russell

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

ISC Keynote: Thomas Sterling’s Take on Whither HPC

June 20, 2019

Entertaining, insightful, and unafraid to launch the occasional verbal ICBM, HPC pioneer Thomas Sterling delivered his 16th annual closing keynote at ISC yesterday. He explored, among other things: exascale machinations; quantum’s bubbling money pot; Arm’s new HPC viability; Europe’s... Read more…

By John Russell

Argonne Team Makes Record Globus File Transfer

July 10, 2019

A team of scientists at Argonne National Laboratory has broken a data transfer record by moving a staggering 2.9 petabytes of data for a research project.  The data – from three large cosmological simulations – was generated and stored on the Summit supercomputer at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF)... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This