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D-Wave to bust 1,000-qubit barrier with new quantum compute device

Bags $30m in funding as it preps quantum-as-a-service thing

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D-Wave is planning a big expansion into quantum computing hardware and their software, helped in part by $30m in extra funding from venture capitalists.

Vern Brownell, CEO of D-Wave, told The Register that his firm will use the bulk of the cash injection to expand out its software side to make it easier for customers to use the Canadian firm's quantum devices. But the money will also boost development of new systems and speed up the introduction of quantum-as-a-service.

"On one level we already offer quantum-as-a-service, where customers send up data for analysis," he explained, citing a financial firm and a cancer screening system that use D-Wave's computers.

"But to truly put quantum in the cloud you'd need more backend systems and staff, better technical support and the infrastructure that comes with a cloud system, and that's some way away."

D-Wave won’t be the first to offer a quantum-as-a-service option, however. Boffins at Bristol University in the UK have been offering such a service since September, and it's free to use.

In terms of new hardware, D-Wave will have a new generation of quantum computing devices out by the end of the year. The current model processes 512 qubits, but the new hardware will manage 1,152. That may seem like a strange number, but the hardware units can each handle eight qubits and the system stacks them in a 12 by 12 grid.

(What is a qubit, you ask. Well, it's not like a normal binary bit. It's rather more mind-bending than that, but they're very useful for calculating and storing all possible outcomes of a particular calculation.)

So far customers have been found for two of the new quantum computing systems, Brownell said, and some of D-Wave's existing customers have expressed a strong interest in upgrading.

But the firm's immediate focus is getting the software side sorted. Writing code for D-Wave's systems has proved difficult for some, and this has also muddied the waters regarding the performance of the firm's hardware.

An academic paper in last month's Science, which claimed that D-Wave's hardware was no faster than a standard computer, was largely down to the software parameters, Brownell said, and the firm wants to make new software that makes its systems easier to use to their full potential. ®

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