D-Wave announces 5,000-qubit fifth generation quantum annealer

D-Wave's newest offering, available in mid-2020, offers two and a half times more connectivity between qubits than the 2000Q quantum computer.

D-Wave quantum computers: Just what are they? Find out what powers a D-Wave quantum computer right here.

Canadian purveyor of quantum computers, D-Wave Systems, announced their fifth-generation, 5,000-qubit system late Tuesday at the company's annual user conference, Qubits, in Newport, RI. The new quantum computer, named Advantage, will be made available for on-premise deployments and in D-Wave's Leap cloud service in mid-2020.

The Advantage design incorporates D-Wave's new Pegasus topology, which was announced in February. The new topology design provides higher connectivity, influencing how problems are solved. Higher connectivity allows for more complex problems to be solved using the same number of qubits. With higher connectivity, less qubits are needed to solve problems.

SEE: Quantum computing: An insider's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

This connectivity is achieved by adding a third type of connection. The Pegasus and previous-generation Chimera designs utilize qubits arranged vertically and horizontally. The connections are made using internal couplers that connect qubits with opposite orientations, and external couplers that connect qubits in the same row or column. The Pegasus design adds odd couplers, "connecting parallel qubit pairs in adjacent rows or columns," according to a whitepaper detailing the new technology. Previously, D-Wave characterized this as "two and a half times more connectivity."

D-Wave's approach to quantum computing relies on a quantum annealer design, used to solve a class of problems called quadratic unconstrained binary optimization (QUBO). While D-Wave contends there is business value in QUBO problems—which the company touts as being versatile enough to support "more than 150 existing early customer-developed applications in areas as diverse as financial modeling, airline scheduling, election modeling, quantum chemistry simulation, automotive design, preventative healthcare, logistics, and more," the quantum annealer design does have limitations relative to general-purpose quantum computers. 

In December 2018, researchers demonstrated the possibility of using a D-Wave 2000Q for prime factorization, successfully factoring 15, 143, 59989, and 376289 using 4, 12, 59, and 94 logical qubits, respectively.

The difference between D-Wave Advantage and quantum advantage

D-Wave's naming convention muddles expectations slightly, as the "Advantage" name quietly implies that D-Wave has reached "quantum advantage," the (non-vendor-specific) point at which quantum computers are capable of performing a calculation demonstrably faster than traditional computers. D-Wave appears to be at least partially cognizant of this problem—the title of their press release starts with "What's in a name?"

The company is quick to defend the decision, however. "Since day one, D-Wave has been laser-focused on delivering the business benefits of quantum computing, so Advantage was a natural choice for the name. Every engineering decision in this next-generation system was designed to make Advantage faster, more efficient, more precise, and to solve larger-scale problems – design elements that businesses care about," said Alan Baratz, chief product officer.

"There are plenty of quantum systems that focus on more academic pursuits. With Advantage, we are signaling to the market our singular intention to deliver innovations in connectivity, noise, and increased qubit count, all of which will underpin the development of the first in-production quantum applications. And in doing so, we aim to give customers, and potential customers, new ways to achieve business benefit," he added.

Advantage vs. supremacy

D-Wave's announcement follows IBM's announcement of a 53-qubit system, though the types of qubits used by IBM are dissimilar, making direct comparisons between IBM and D-Wave unproductive. Google quietly claimed achieving quantum supremacy in a research paper earlier this month, though the paper was unpublished shortly thereafter. Quantum supremacy is a threshold at which quantum computers are theorized to be capable of solving problems which traditional computers would not (practically) be able to solve.

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