Fujitsu's second gen Digital Annealer offers 100x performance improvement

Fujitsu's quantum-inspired Digital Annealer is available now on the cloud, and will be available for on-premises installations early next year.

Will quantum computers make traditional computers obsolete? What will be the role for conventional computers after a useful quantum computer is invented?

Fujitsu announced the second generation of their quantum-inspired Digital Annealer hardware and cloud service on Friday. Fujitsu's offering focuses on solving problems with a technique called quadratic unconstrained binary optimization (QUBO), which is useful for pattern matching and optimization models.

The second generation of Fujitsu's Digital Annealer operates with up to 8,192 connections between bits, with a maximum 64 bits of gradation, for a maximum of 18.45 quintillion gradations. For comparison, the first generation was limited to 1,024 connections between bits, with a maximum 16 bits of gradation, totaling a maximum of 65,536 gradations. Upgrades present in the second generation design "improve processing performance by a factor of 100" compared to the first generation hardware, Fujitsu noted in a press release.

Like the first generation, Fujitsu's hardware utilizes traditional digital circuitry, which allows it to operate at room temperature without the expense of helium-based cooling solutions. This design also makes it more resistant to noise and environmental conditions impacting performance.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of quantum computing (Tech Pro Research)

Cloud access to the upgraded hardware is available immediately, with on-premises service scheduled to be available starting February 22, 2019. Pricing information for both services is only available via individual estimate.

As with any solutions vendor, Fujitsu offers case studies, though their go-to example is internal to Fujitsu. The company used their own Digital Annealer for drawing paths for collecting parts in a warehouse, as part of a performance improvement experiment as Fujitsu transitioned its parts supply operations in-house, moving away from outsourcing. Using parts lists in order forms, combined with a map of where parts are located, maps were drawn on tablets to indicate the shortest path to walk for to pick up parts for each order, decreasing traveling distance by 20% each month, the company claims. Further, changing the location of parts to make more frequently ordered parts easier to access "could possibly lead to a 45% reduction in distance travelled."

Fujitsu offers a consulting service-launched with the first generation of the hardware-to help companies understand how to adapt their needs to the ability of the hardware, as well as a partnership with 1QBit, a software vendor and consulting firm which helps organizations understand how to utilize quantum computers. As is traditional for Japanese companies, the identities of Fujitsu's clients are considered essentially private, making it difficult to discern the companies adopting this technology.

Like the first-generation Digital Annealer, Fujitsu markets this as a "quantum inspired" computer, due to the limited use cases which it is suited for, and the way in which it is built. While there is a substantial amount of benefit to be found in QUBO tasks, these systems are fundamentally purpose-built. Quantum annealers are unsuitable for integer factorization, which is required for cracking RSA encryption systems.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • The second generation of Fujitsu's Digital Annealer operates with up to 8,192 connections between bits, with a maximum 64 bits of gradation, for a maximum of 18.45 quintillion gradations.
  • Cloud access to the upgraded hardware is available immediately, with on-premises service scheduled to be available starting February 22, 2019.

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Image: iStock/agsandrew

By James Sanders

James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on Asia.