Google Solidifies Position as a Trailblazer in High-Performance Computing with Purported Achievement of Quantum Supremacy

R. Bhattacharyya

Summary Bullets:

  • A draft research paper leaked the news that Google had achieved quantum supremacy.
  • The accomplishment reinforces Google’s position as a thought leader in the realm of high-performance computing.

Last week, a draft research paper appeared and then was immediately removed, apparently leaking the news that Google had achieved quantum supremacy, meaning it had performed calculations that today’s high-speed computers could not accomplish in a reasonable amount of time. Purportedly, Google’s Sycamore quantum processor, utilizing 53-qubits, performed calculations in 200 seconds that would have taken traditional supercomputers over 10,000 years to complete. The power and future potential of such an achievement are awe-inspiring, even if there are no practical applications today.

The accomplishment does much to reinforce Google’s position as a thought leader in the realm of high-performance computing. The cloud provider established a reputation as a trailblazer with the launch of AI-optimized Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) several years ago; it solidified its position last year when the company unveiled Bristlecone, a 72-qubit quantum computer, which overpowered IBM’s 50-qubit processor. With this latest milestone, Google demonstrates that it is determined to lead competitors when it comes to research in emerging technologies. The timing of the leak was opportune, as it came within days of IBM’s announcement that its 53-qubit quantum computer would be commercially available by mid-October, eclipsing the buzz around Big Blue’s news.

But, what does the announcement really mean for enterprises? Should they be preparing for changing business models? Should they anticipate a flood of innovative applications enabled by a new realm of computing? Or, should they be panicking about the advent of a technology that can crack all current encryption techniques? Not at all.

Quantum computing still has its limitations, and Google’s accomplishment does not mean we are close to seeing quantum computers perform the calculations required to break security codes; this would require thousands of qubits. Furthermore, quantum computing can be susceptible to environmental noise, and quantum chips are unstable and highly prone to interference from heat and electricity.

Still, the milestone does have implications for the future, providing a glimpse of what may be coming. In the meantime, companies interested in testing the waters should check out IBM’s quantum simulator and Quantum Computation Center in Poughkeepsie, New York, which will soon include 14 quantum systems, one of which will be a 53-qubit quantum computer.

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