Microsoft Azure Quantum is now in public preview. Essentially, the company has opened access to quantum computing processing to the general public.
The Microsoft Azure Quantum computing service will offer a free but small allowance of “compute” time. However, interested people who need more time or “compute hours” will need to pay.
Azure Quantum’s public preview marks the commercialization of quantum computing:
Microsoft’s Azure Quantum service is open to the public starting this week. This is the first time that any quantum computer is available to the general public outside of academia.
Microsoft Azure is the world’s second-biggest cloud computing service, and Azure Quantum relies on third-party manufacturers for the quantum computing hardware and tools.
— Microsoft Quantum (@MSFTQuantum) February 1, 2021
Specifically, Azure Quantum offers “compute hours” on quantum computers made by Honeywell Quantum Solutions, 1QBit, and IonQ. These computers rely on Ion Trap design. The computers essentially employ electrically charged atoms as qubits.
In addition to the aforementioned companies, Microsoft is also planning to add another design by Quantum Circuits. This company employs super-cooled electrical circuits for qubit processing.
During our #AzureQuantum Developer Workshop on February 2, Dr. Brian Neyenhuis will walk through how @Honeywell systems enable developers to write quantum algorithms in uniquely impactful ways. Register: https://t.co/zAXPwH5SGi pic.twitter.com/nt5MJZGuHm
— Microsoft Quantum (@MSFTQuantum) January 27, 2021
Speaking about the opening of access to quantum computing, Krysta Svore, the GM of Microsoft Quantum said: “The transition to Public Preview of Azure Quantum is a key milestone for quantum computing and our ecosystem. This continues the momentum we saw last year, which includes a selection for the National Quantum Initiative Quantum Research Centers, the addition of new Azure Quantum partners, and hardware advances in scaling control circuitry for qubits.”
How to access Microsoft Azure Quantum computer cloud service?
The Microsoft Azure Quantum Computing service is just like any other Azure-based services. Interested people need to create an account on the platform.
Microsoft is offering a small free allowance to get started. However, after the free trial, users need to pay for access.
Microsoft has mentioned the actual tariffs for Azure Quantum in a detailed pricing chart. But on average, users are looking at a $10 per hour charge to access the most basics of functions and features.
— Sam Elliott (@princeoftoyland) February 1, 2021
Incidentally, Quantum Computing is still a few months or years away from gaining true open-source tools made by several third parties. Hence, Azure Quantum users will have to use the open-source Quantum Development Kit and its Q# language. Users also have the choice to go with the recently announced hardware-agnostic Quantum Intermediate Representation (QIR) intermediate language based on LLVM.
It is important to note that Microsoft should add its own homegrown quantum computers to the service in the near future. However, the company hasn’t made any serious breakthroughs yet.
Microsoft hasn't yet demonstrated its own quantum computing design — topological qubits — but on Monday, it launched its Azure Quantum service with machines from Honeywell and Quantum Circuits. https://t.co/4EqQgAHMMt
— Stephen Shankland (@stshank) February 1, 2021
Still, Microsoft is going with topological qubits. The company assures qubits generated through this process are more stable than those used by competing technologies. As an additional benefit, quantum computations can run for longer periods of time.
In addition to new qubit technology, Microsoft is working on a controller chip named Gooseberry. The controller will eventually govern thousands of qubits. Today’s quantum computers can generate a few dozen qubits at the most. Needless to add, addressing complex calculations will require millions of qubits for prolonged periods of time.