Quantum Computing: What You Need (And Don't Need) to Know

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Quantum Computing: What You Need (And Don't Need) to Know

Explore quantum computing and then decide if you should care about it or not. Is it being overhyped?

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Everyone's pegging quantum computing as the next big thing in enterprise technology. Quantum computing is becoming as overhyped as Blockchain, if such a thing is possible.

And while quantum computing does open fascinating possibilities for businesses, bringing it to reality will take some time. When that happens, quantum computing will be the most transformative development in computing history. And at the same time, it won't really change a thing.

What Is Quantum Computing?

To understand quantum computing, we first need to look at how traditional computers operate. No matter how powerful, standard computing operates on binary units called "bits." A bit is either a 1 or a 0, on or off, true or false. We've been building computers based on that architecture for the past 80 or so years. Computers today are using the same bits that Turing invented for cracking German codes in World War 2.

That architecture has gotten us extremely far, but it does have limits. Enter quantum computing, where a bit can be a 0, a 1, or a 0 and a 1 at the same time. Quantum computing works with logic gates, similar to classical computers. But quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, With 1 qubit we would have a matrix of four elements, something similar to {0,0}, {0,1}, {1,0}, or {1,1}. But with 2 qubits, we get a matrix with 16 elements, and at 3 qubits we have 64. For more details on qubits and gates, check out this post: Demystifying Quantum Gates — One Qubit At A Time.

Scale this out across the millions and billions of bits that today's computers use and you can appreciate the power a simple quantum computer has over today's high-speed supercomputers. This is what makes it possible for quantum computers to solve complex equations and problems that today's computers can't handle. Things like predicting weather patterns years in advance. Or comprehending the intricacies of the human genome. Quantum computing brings these insights, just out of reach today, into our grasp.

Quantum Computing Research Efforts

A few companies like Microsoft and IBM are actively trying to build quantum servers. Microsoft's gone as far as to develop a new quantum computing language, called Q#, with an SDK that developers can already run simulations on. Build an application on the SDK, and you can run it on a set of qubits once quantum computers do become available. There are some Python tutorials as well, including this one that shows how to teleport a quantum state from one place to another.

Don't hold your breath on a release date for those computers, however. Building commercially viable quantum computing hardware still faces a huge number of hurdles, largely due to the difficulties in building something where both "on" and "off" can exist simultaneously. It's a problem which most leaders in this field have delved into particle physics to try and solve. And the smaller you go the bigger your challenges. Measuring atomic spin accurately and handling huge amounts of heat build-up are the biggest hurdles.

Should You Care About Quantum Computing?

In a manner befitting of quantum computing's nature: yes and no. Yes, because quantum computing may offer businesses and technology managers the ability to solve otherwise intractable problems. Problems involving huge amounts of data and complexity, for example. That may help eliminate many of the day-to-day issues that IT faces in both the present and the future.

Because of its prohibitive costs, quantum servers aren't ever going to appear in IT departments. Businesses will access them, if at all, through clouds hosted by Microsoft, IBM, and other big-hitters in the enterprise R&D space. Aside perhaps from some government departments with bottomless budgets, quantum computing will be an exclusively Infrastructure-as-a-Service offering, where security and operations are handled by the IaaS provider rather than the customer themselves.

Finally, quantum computing won't solve many of the problems that IT faces every day. It does allow technologists to build far more complex models and simulations than we would've ever thought possible — something they may want to consider exploring already with tools like Microsoft's Q# SDK. But when it comes to dealing with pointless meetings, or getting everyone to join a Webex on time, or helping an executive find the "On" button for his latest gadget...there's no computing power, quantum or otherwise, that can deal with these all-too-human problems. And for most IT teams, whether they're handling operations or strategy or a bit of both, I'd hazard that these will always be the main causes of grief in their everyday work.


Quantum computing will change everything about IT, and at the same time, everything will stay the same. From our compute consumption models to the bugbears we face in the office, the best strategy for quantum is to keep waiting and test out its possibilities for software development if you're interested.

Just don't get yourself entangled in the hype.

ai, enterprise technology, ibm, microsoft, quantum computing, qubits

Published at DZone with permission of Thomas LaRock , DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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