Quantum computing leader IonQ has announced new trapped-ion quantum processors designed to integrate into standard data centre infrastructure. The forthcoming systems represent a major departure from previous bespoke quantum machines requiring dedicated facilities.
By conforming to traditional server rack mounts, IonQ aims to ease enterprise adoption and cloud deployment of its cutting-edge quantum technology.
New Systems Optimize Size While Boosting Performance
At the Quantum World Congress last week, IonQ revealed its next-generation quantum computers – the 35-qubit Forte Enterprise available next year and the 64-qubit Tempo coming in 2025. The new systems will fit conveniently into a fraction of the server cabinet space compared to previous generations.
The Forte Enterprise packs improved performance into just eight server racks, a 40% size reduction from IonQ’s existing 29-qubit Forte system. Meanwhile, the Tempo will achieve a quantum advantage in a form factor shrunk to just three racks.
Standard rack-mounting represents a major engineering feat for IonQ. The company’s current quantum processors using trapped ytterbium ions measure approximately 5 feet wide. Transitioning to a compact 19-inch width required extensive miniaturization of key optical and control components.
Rack-Based Systems Signify Pivoting Business Models
IonQ’s shift towards rack-mounted units closely integrating with classical computing infrastructure signals pivoting business approaches. Rather than solely providing quantum access via cloud APIs, IonQ plans sales of its quantum hardware suites.
Per CEO Peter Chapman, the company eventually hopes cloud partners will purchase IonQ systems in volume to offer more robust quantum services. But Chapman believes many organizations will adopt dedicated in-house quantum capabilities, especially for time-sensitive tasks.
On-demand cloud quantum cannot yet guarantee the performance needed for real-time analysis like financial services. Production quantum workloads also frequently require uninterrupted compute availability impractical on shared hardware.
For these use cases, on-premise quantum servers make sense. IonQ’s compact rack-based systems allow seamless embedding into existing data centres and workflows. Hybrid models melding on-site hardware and supplementary cloud access provide flexibility.
Chapman stresses that along with pioneering cutting-edge quantum computing, IonQ remains committed to driving down costs via efficiencies like standardized form factors. Following trajectories like Moore’s Law will bolster real-world quantum adoption.
Near-Term Systems Lay Foundation for Quantum Advantage
While the 64-qubit Tempo aims to achieve quantum advantage – outperforming classical supercomputers – Chapman admits the preceding 35-qubit Forte Enterprise remains limited compared to top supercomputers.
However, its purpose is to provide a stable platform for organizations to commence exploring quantum applications and building expertise. Forte Enterprise’s consistent performance facilitates code development, training, and testing designed for scaled-up systems like Tempo.
IonQ is collaborating closely with early customers to refine quantum techniques on current hardware. The experiences will ease transitioning to solving high-impact problems on forthcoming Advantage-class processors.
IonQ’s Innovative Trapped Ion Approach
Powering IonQ’s quantum systems are arrays of individual ytterbium atoms isolated and controlled using laser pulses. This trapped ion approach enables record qubit lifetimes exceeding 500 milliseconds along with near-perfect operations.
By optimizing laser and optics configurations to retain ion trap feasibility in compact footprints, IonQ reached the rack-based milestone. Ongoing optical and electronic component engineering provides paths to scale trapped ion quantum computing.
While the quantum advantage finish line remains distant, IonQ’s trajectory solidifies its position as a leader. Customer collaborations and strategic cloud alliances will be critical in traversing the groundbreaking territory ahead as quantum’s revolutionary potential crystallizes.