Microsoft: Creating quantum developer tools and delivering access to quantum systems

Julie Love discusses the merits of Microsoft's Q# programming language and the Quantum Developer Kit (QDK) alongside announcements from Ignite, including partnerships with Honeywell, IonQ, and QCI.

Microsoft: Creating quantum developer tools and delivering access to quantum systems

James Sanders spoke with Julie Love, senior director, Microsoft Quantum Business Development, at Microsoft Ignite 2019 in Orlando about Microsoft's role in quantum computing. The following is a transcript of the interview.

Julie Love: At Microsoft Quantum, we're all about quantum impact. Delivering solutions, helping our customers solve their toughest compute challenges by building the world's most scalable compute stack. It's really this ambition for scale that we took the next step on our quantum journey to deliver impact through announcing Azure Quantum. Azure Quantum is a full end-to-end open cloud ecosystem for quantum development, really bringing the tools of quantum computing to developers at organizations, people around the world.

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We're doing this building on the work that we've been doing on applications, solving tough problems like the ones that we solved with Case Western Reserve University that Satya Nadella talked about this morning, our work on quantum cryptography and post quantum cryptography to secure our data in a quantum world, building on Q#, our quantum native programming language in the quantum development kit, which has now been downloaded more than 200,000 times by developers around the world, and breakthroughs that we've had across devices, cryogenic controllers across the whole stack. We've announced Azure Quantum to bring this ecosystem to the world together with partners. We've partnered with IonQ, Honeywell, QCI, and 1QBit to bring the most diverse, most scalable quantum solutions across software solutions and hardware.

Cryptography is one of the areas where there's been a lot of excitement and talk because there's a notable quantum algorithm which will break modern cryptography. Microsoft is at the forefront of developing post quantum cryptographic solutions, so these are cryptographic protocols which are resistant to both classical and quantum attacks. I think it's hard to say when exactly that will be a reality. There is advancements happening every day across all elements of the stack. But, we look at it from a position, is if you believe that quantum is coming, which we do, we think it's important to get ahead of this technology. If you think that might be a possibility within the next decade, it's time for organizations to start implementing these quantum resistant protocols now, so ensuring that they have quantum agility to be able to shift their cryptographic systems to new protocols, and to start testing these systems in their environment today.

We've had quantum software efforts at Microsoft for a long time, and as we developed earlier systems that we used for programming scalable quantum computers, we discovered that we really needed a new language. And so, we developed a quantum-native language and it really understands the language of quantum mechanics. There's a lot of things that come with having a quantum native language that make it easier and more scalable for developers to develop for that language. For example, in quantum mechanics and quantum computing, all operations have to be reversible. And so, Q# has built in the mechanisms to take care of that for developers, and so you're not having to take care of that overhead for yourself. It's allowed us to create really a modern programming environment with the abstraction layers needed for developers to create durable, scalable code.

Our aim is also to make this incredibly accessible for developers. We see this as a need, not just to create a language for physicists working in the lab, but for programmers around the world. This goes back to the whole aspiration for impact. For us to achieve the impact that we want to have from quantum computing, we need this to be accessible for a whole range of people. Not just programmers, but domain experts in areas like quantum chemistry, material science, optimization. We've expanded on what we've offered with Q# and the quantum development kit to do integrations with languages like Python.

Classical computers will continue to play a huge role in the quantum future. If you think about the environment that we've deployed in Azure today, it's a highly heterogeneous compute fabric where you have CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs deployed at scale, and those are accelerators to the main core classical workloads. For the foreseeable future, we see quantum as being one of those acceleration options that will exist within Azure.


Image: James Sanders

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