AWS opens up its Amazon Braket platform as ‘launch pad’ for quantum computing

Alan Boyle
·3-min read
IonQ linear ion trap
IonQ, one of the hardware partners for the Amazon Braket quantum computing platform, uses a specialized type of chip known as a linear ion trap. (IonQ Photo via AWS)

Eight months after unveiling its Amazon Braket quantum computing platform, Amazon Web Services says the cloud-based service is officially open for business.

In a video that pokes a bit of fun at the weirdness of quantum concepts, Bill Vass, vice president for AWS technology, says Braket serves as a “launch pad for people to go explore quantum computing.”

In contrast to the rigid one-or-zero realm of classical computing, Braket and similar platforms take advantage of the fuzziness of quantum algorithms, in which quantum bits — or “qubits” — can represent multiple values simultaneously until the results are read out.

Quantum computing is particularly well-suited for tackling challenges ranging from cryptography — which serves as the foundation of secure online commerce — to the development of new chemical compounds for industrial and medical use. Some of the first applications could well be in the realm of system optimization, including the optimization of your financial portfolio.

“Thousands of customers are asking for ways to experiment with quantum computers to explore the technology’s potential and contribute to its development,” Vass said today in a news release. “The cloud will be the main way that customers access quantum computers and combine those systems with high-performance classical computing for certain types of computationally intensive research.”

Braket takes its name from a notation system that’s used in quantum mechanics. Amazon Web Services took the wraps off its Braket last December during its annual re:Invent conference, but until now, it’s been available only in preview mode for a limited range of customers such as Amgen, Fidelity and Volkswagen.

Previously: What will quantum computers do? Programmers share their dreams

Today Amazon said the platform can be used by all comers in AWS’ US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Northern California) and US West (Oregon) regions. Additional regions will offer Braket as part of a phased rollout.

Braket relies on a hybrid of classical and quantum computing resources that play to the strengths of each approach. And when it comes to the hardware, Amazon is partnering with providers that take different approaches to quantum processing.

For example, IonQ bases its hardware on trapped-ion technology; Rigetti makes use of superconducting semiconductors; and B.C.-based D-Wave Systems has pioneered a processing strategy called quantum annealing. Amazon also offers an option that uses classical processing to simulate a quantum circuit.

In a blog item, AWS Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr runs through a hands-on example that makes use of the Amazon Braket Console. (You’ll need an AWS account to sign in.)

Pricing is based on per-task and per-shot charges that are specific to each quantum processor. Use of the simulator is billed per second of processing time, with a 15-second minimum. AWS also offers training via its Quantum Solutions Lab.

Braket is one of several intersecting cloud platforms for hybrid quantum computing. D-Wave, for instance, offers an in-house platform called Leap2. Microsoft has created Azure Quantum, with IonQ, Honeywell and Quantum Circuits among its partners. Google AI Quantum and the IBM Q Network take advantage of quantum processors that have been developed in-house.

For what it’s worth, the White House considers quantum information science to be one of America’s “Industries of the Future,” and last year Congress allocated $1.2 billion over a five-year period for quantum computing research.

In April, the National Science Foundation kicked off a program to support researchers seeking to run quantum algorithms on Amazon Braket, IBM Q and Microsoft Azure Quantum. And this month, the White House partnered with those three companies — plus Boeing, Google and Lockheed Martin, among others — on a quantum-centric education program for K-12 students that’s known as Q-12.

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