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!

Amid Upbeat Earnings, Intel to Cut 1% of Employees, Add as Many

January 24, 2020

For all the sniping two tech old timers take, both IBM and Intel announced surprisingly upbeat earnings this week. IBM CEO Ginny Rometty was all smiles at this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, after  Read more…

By Doug Black

Indiana University Dedicates ‘Big Red 200’ Cray Shasta Supercomputer

January 24, 2020

After six months of celebrations, Indiana University (IU) officially marked its bicentennial on Monday – and it saved the best for last, inaugurating Big Red 200, a new AI-focused supercomputer that joins the ranks of Read more…

By Staff report

What’s New in HPC Research: Tsunamis, Wildfires, the Large Hadron Collider & More

January 24, 2020

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

Toshiba Promises Quantum-Like Advantage on Standard Hardware

January 23, 2020

Toshiba has invented an algorithm that it says delivers a 10-fold improvement for a select class of computational problems, without the need for exotic hardware. In fact, the company's simulated bifurcation algorithm is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Energy Research Combines HPC, 3D Manufacturing

January 23, 2020

A federal energy research initiative is gaining momentum with the release of a contract award aimed at using supercomputing to harness 3D printing technology that would boost the performance of power generators. Partn Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Solution Channel

Challenging the barriers to High Performance Computing in the Cloud

Cloud computing helps democratize High Performance Computing by placing powerful computational capabilities in the hands of more researchers, engineers, and organizations who may lack access to sufficient on-premises infrastructure. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Intelligent HPC – Keeping Hard Work at Bay(es)

Since the dawn of time, humans have looked for ways to make their lives easier. Over the centuries human ingenuity has given us inventions such as the wheel and simple machines – which help greatly with tasks that would otherwise be extremely laborious. Read more…

TACC Highlights Its Upcoming ‘IsoBank’ Isotope Database

January 22, 2020

Isotopes – elemental variations that contain different numbers of neutrons – can help researchers unearth the past of an object, especially the few hundred isotopes that are known to be stable over time. However, iso Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Toshiba Promises Quantum-Like Advantage on Standard Hardware

January 23, 2020

Toshiba has invented an algorithm that it says delivers a 10-fold improvement for a select class of computational problems, without the need for exotic hardware Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

In Advanced Computing and HPC, Dell EMC Sets Sights on the Broader Market Middle 

January 22, 2020

If the leading advanced computing/HPC server vendors were in the batting lineup of a baseball team, Dell EMC would be going for lots of singles and doubles – Read more…

By Doug Black

DNA-Based Storage Nears Scalable Reality with New $25 Million Project

January 21, 2020

DNA-based storage, which involves storing binary code in the four nucleotides that constitute DNA, has been a moonshot for high-density data storage since the 1960s. Since the first successful experiments in the 1980s, researchers have made a series of major strides toward implementing DNA-based storage at scale, such as improving write times and storage density and enabling easier file identification and extraction. Now, a new $25 million... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AMD Recruits Intel, IBM Execs; Pending Layoffs Reported at Intel Data Platform Group

January 17, 2020

AMD has raided Intel and IBM for new senior managers, one of whom will replace an AMD executive who has played a prominent role during the company’s recharged Read more…

By Doug Black

Atos-AMD System to Quintuple Supercomputing Power at European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts

January 15, 2020

The United Kingdom-based European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), a supercomputer-powered weather forecasting organization backed by most of Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Julia Programming’s Dramatic Rise in HPC and Elsewhere

January 14, 2020

Back in 2012 a paper by four computer scientists including Alan Edelman of MIT introduced Julia, A Fast Dynamic Language for Technical Computing. At the time, t Read more…

By John Russell

White House AI Regulatory Guidelines: ‘Remove Impediments to Private-sector AI Innovation’

January 9, 2020

When it comes to new technology, it’s been said government initially stays uninvolved – then gets too involved. The White House’s guidelines for federal a Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Touts Quantum Network Growth, Improving QC Quality, and Battery Research

January 8, 2020

IBM today announced its Q (quantum) Network community had grown to 100-plus – Delta Airlines and Los Alamos National Laboratory are among most recent addition Read more…

By John Russell

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

Julia Programming’s Dramatic Rise in HPC and Elsewhere

January 14, 2020

Back in 2012 a paper by four computer scientists including Alan Edelman of MIT introduced Julia, A Fast Dynamic Language for Technical Computing. At the time, t Read more…

By John Russell

SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy... Read more…

By John Russell

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

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

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

IBM Unveils Latest Achievements in AI Hardware

December 13, 2019

“The increased capabilities of contemporary AI models provide unprecedented recognition accuracy, but often at the expense of larger computational and energet Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU Read more…

By John Russell

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

51,000 Cloud GPUs Converge to Power Neutrino Discovery at the South Pole

November 22, 2019

At the dead center of the South Pole, thousands of sensors spanning a cubic kilometer are buried thousands of meters beneath the ice. The sensors are part of Ic Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Azure Cloud First with AMD Epyc Rome Processors

November 6, 2019

At Ignite 2019 this week, Microsoft's Azure cloud team and AMD announced an expansion of their partnership that began in 2017 when Azure debuted Epyc-backed instances for storage workloads. The fourth-generation Azure D-series and E-series virtual machines previewed at the Rome launch in August are now generally available. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel’s New Hyderabad Design Center Targets Exascale Era Technologies

December 3, 2019

Intel's Raja Koduri was in India this week to help launch a new 300,000 square foot design and engineering center in Hyderabad, which will focus on advanced com Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Summit Has Real-Time Analytics: Here’s How It Happened and What’s Next

October 3, 2019

Summit – the world’s fastest publicly-ranked supercomputer – now has real-time streaming analytics. At the 2019 HPC User Forum at Argonne National Laborat 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