IBM quantum system elbows into Arm-powered Fugaku supercomputer

Slotting in the module for ambitious next-generation compute goals

Japan's Arm-based Fugaku supercomputer is to be paired with a newly developed quantum system from IBM as part of a project to research and develop future computing systems.

The move was announced by Big Blue, which said it has an agreement with Japan's RIKEN governmental scientific research institute to deploy an IBM Quantum System Two and integrate it with the Fugaku supercomputer at the RIKEN Center for Computational Science in Kobe.

This combination is intended to enable quantum-centric supercomputing, which IBM sees as the future for traditional HPC, where quantum will become an integral part of the architecture. Well, assuming quantum computing is a viable technology in practical terms.

Fugaku was built by Fujitsu using 152,064 of its custom-designed A64FX processor chips, and was the most powerful known supercomputer in the world from 2020 until it was surpassed by the Frontier exascale system in 2022.

IBM's Quantum System Two was unveiled at the annual IBM Quantum Summit in New York in December, and is based on the company’s 133 qubit Heron quantum processor. Big Blue claimed it will be the only quantum computer to be co-located with the supercomputer Fugaku.

This integration is part of a project funded by the Japanese government's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) that aims to demonstrate the advantages of such hybrid computational platforms for deployment as services in the future "post-5G era", and has the goal of advancing science and business in Japan.

On top of supplying the hardware, IBM said it will be working to develop a software stack for "generating and executing integrated quantum-classical workflows in a heterogeneous quantum-HPC hybrid computing environment." These capabilities are aimed at delivering improvements in algorithm quality and execution times.

Dr Mitsuhisa Sato, director of RIKEN's Quantum HPC Collaborative Platform Division, claimed that quantum systems are now moving from the noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ) era towards a practical stage, as the number of qubits increases and the fidelity is improved. (A fivefold improvement in error rates is one feat claimed by IBM for the Heron processor).

"From the HPC's point of view, quantum computers are devices that accelerate scientific applications conventionally executed on supercomputers and enable computations that cannot yet be solved by supercomputers," he said.

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RIKEN is committed to developing software for quantum-HPC hybrid computing, building on the institute's scientific research capabilities and experience in the development and operation of supercomputers like Fugaku, Dr Mitsuhisa stated.

IBM also hailed the new development, claiming that it marks a "monumental milestone in the journey towards a future defined by quantum-centric supercomputing."

"This work will advance the industry towards a modular and flexible architecture that combines quantum computation and communication with classical computing resources, so that both paradigms can work together to solve increasingly complex problems," said IBM Fellow and Vice President of IBM Quantum, Jay Gambetta.

Japan appears to be taking this challenge seriously, as this is not the only investment the nation is making in hybrid quantum-classical compute platforms.

Quantum outfit QuEra Computing said it has been awarded a ¥6.5 billion ($41.4 million) contract by Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) for one of its systems to be deployed alongside an Nvidia-powered ABCI-Q supercomputer.

The ABCI-Q system is hoped to be a platform for the advancement of quantum circuit simulation and quantum machine learning, the building of classical-quantum hybrid systems, and the development of new algorithms inspired by quantum technology, QuEra said. ®

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