IBM made two major system announcements within just a couple of weeks: On Sept. 18 IBM announced a 53 qubit guantum machine. The week before, IBM introduced its latest mainframe, the z15. Already buzz is circulating of a z16 in two years, about a normal release cycle for the next generation of an IBM mainframe.

Along with the 53 qubit machine IBM announced the opening of a Quantum Computation Center in New York state. The new center expands, according to IBM, its fleet of quantum computing systems for commercial and research activity that exist beyond the confines of experimental lab environments. IBM’s offerings run from 5 to 10 to 20 to, now, 53 qubits. These are actual quantum machines hosted by IBM in the cloud, not just simulations.

The IBM Quantum Computation Center will support the growing needs of a community of over 150,000 registered users and nearly 80 commercial clients, academic institutions and research laboratories to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications. To date, notes IBM, this global community of users have run more than 14 million experiments on IBM’s quantum computers through the cloud since 2016, and published more than 200 scientific papers. To meet growing demand for access to real quantum hardware, ten quantum computing systems are now online through IBM’s Quantum Computation Center. The fleet is composed of five 20-qubit systems, one 14-qubit system, and four 5-qubit systems. Five of the systems now have a quantum volume of 16 – a measure of the power of a quantum computer used by IBM demonstrating a new sustained performance milestone.

IBM’s quantum systems are optimized for the reliability and reproducibility of programmable multi-qubit operations. Due to these factors, the systems enable state-of-the-art quantum computational research with 95 percent availability, according to the company.

Within one month, IBM’s commercially available quantum fleet will grow to 14 systems, including the new 53-qubit quantum computer, the single largest universal quantum system made available for external access in the industry to date. The new system offers a larger lattice and gives users the ability to run even more complex entanglement and connectivity experiments. Industry observers note that serious work requires a minimum of 200 qubits, probably just a couple more product intros away.

Advances in quantum computing could open the door to future scientific discoveries such as new medicines and materials, vast improvements in the optimization of supply chains, and new ways computers to model financial data to make better investments. Examples of IBM’s work with clients and partners, include:

- J.P. Morgan Chase and IBM posted on arXiv, Option Pricing using Quantum Computers, a methodology to price financial options and portfolios of such options, on a gate-based quantum computer. This resulted in an algorithm that provides a quadratic speedup, i.e. whereby classically computers need millions of samples, this methodology requires only a few thousands of samples to achieve the same result, It allows financial analysts to perform the option pricing and risk analysis in near real time. The implementation is available as open source in Qiskit Finance.
- Mitsubishi Chemical, Keio University and IBM simulated the initial steps of the reaction mechanism between lithium and oxygen in lithium-air batteries. Also available on arXiv, this represents a first step in modeling the entire lithium-oxygen reaction on a quantum computer. Better understanding of this interaction could lead to more efficient batteries for mobile devices or automotive vehicles.

In the meantime IBM continues to simulate quantum algorithms on conventional supercomputers. According to one 2-year old report: at roughly 50 qubits, existing methods for calculating quantum amplitudes require either too much computation to be practical, or more memory than is available on any existing supercomputer, or both. You can bet that IBM or somebody else will push beyond 53 qubits pretty quickly. Google already claims a 72-qubit device, but it hasn’t let outsiders run programs on it. IBM has been making quantum available via the cloud since 2016. Other companies putting quantum computers in the cloud, include IBM’s Quantum Computation Center.IBM’s Quantum Computation Center. Others include Rigetti Computing, and Canada’s D-Wave

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at http://technologywriter.com/