Rene: Hi! Welcome to QuBites, your bite sized pieces of quantum computing. My name is Rene from Valorem Reply and today we’re going to talk about Azure Quantum. And I’m honored to have a special expert guest today here with us, Fabrice Frachon from Microsoft. Hi Fabrice, good morning, welcome to the show, how are you?
Fabrice: Hello Rene, I’m doing great. Thank you for having me today.
Rene: Awesome! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as it relates to Quantum Computing?
Fabrice: Yes, absolutely. So, I lead the program management for Azure Quantum in the Microsoft Quantum group. I’ve been at Microsoft for close to 15 years now and I’ve worked actually most of my career on operating systems, which has actually given me a pretty good idea of what it takes to build an entire software stack, which is really what is needed for the world of quantum computing. My training actually is in what I will call classical computer science. I’ve studied a bit of physics and chemistry as well but I’m certainly not a quantum physicist or mathematician. And I think my profile is a very telling of what we’re trying to achieve with Azure Quantum, by making quantum computing and optimization accessible to non-quantum physicist.
Rene: That is awesome. That is also exactly the goal of the whole [QuBites] show here, making it accessible with applied quantum computing. So, can you tell us a little bit about what is Azure Quantum? I know it is a cloud service, I know there are some dev tooling involved. There is a bunch of things, so maybe you can give us a quick overview of it.
Fabrice: Yeah, absolutely. So, for customers and developers, [Azure Quantum] is really in my view the only service that provides a fully unified way - and I think unified is really the key term - to access quantum computing systems that may each present with very different capabilities and characteristics. Such as you know, supercomputing, superconducting qubits or trapped ions. And it’s just the beginning So we’re really creating this unification and simplification for everybody. But we realize that scaled quantum computers that are able to really have a meaningful impact for business are still relatively far away and that’s why we decided to take all our learnings from our research in quantum and to provide as well an optimization for interweaving Azure Quantum. Obviously, the field of optimization and quantum computing overlap and eventually we’ll have at scale quantum systems that can solve optimization problems. But we wanted to create this bridge between these two fields. And so, we’re offering this optimization offering to customers today with a software development kit (QDK) that enables customers to formulate quantum problems and target a multitude of systems and solutions, not only from Microsoft but from a partner such as 1QBit and Toshiba.
Rene: Nice. So, it’s a whole suite of tooling and services for quantum-inspired optimization as well as running on real hardware right? And that’s the beauty of it, what we talked about with Marco in the previous show, you can write these algorithms, they run on classical hardware - quantum-inspired algorithms - and then once we have enough qubits with quantum computers, they will just fly.
Fabrice: Exactly. So, let me actually tell you a bit more about our toolsets. So we decided super early to make super significant investments in quantum computing and in a language actually, which is Q# (Q sharp), and I think it really makes Microsoft and Azure Quantum really stand apart. So, a central element of our design has been to write one true code and for people to run it on many systems and be able to compare the results. So, you don’t have to write a circuit with Q# (Q sharp), that is highly dependent on the quantum system that you’re using. We’re really taking care of abstracting that, abstracting older hardware specifications. So, I think it’s really the key thing. When I go back 30 years ago, myself writing assembly code (assembly language or asm), I mean I know how painful it was to just shave a few seconds. And the industry of software development today wouldn’t be what it is if we were still writing assembly code and that’s why we wanted to create Q# (Q sharp).
Rene: Awesome, it’s a higher-level language on top of the qubits, right?
Fabrice: Yeah exactly. It’s really a way for you to protect your investment because as quantum systems improve and bring new capabilities, you don’t need to reinvent everything that you have written because [Azure Quantum] will take care of that for you, adjusting automatically in the background.
Rene: Awesome! And what kind of impact are you already seeing today with quantum computing using Azure Quantum?
Fabrice: Yeah. So, I think it’s important in the quantum world to keep a sense of perspective. Quantum computing is still very early in it’s journey with a lot of energy that we see from the community focusing really on fundamentals such as developing new algorithms. But the impact you see with Azure Quantum I think is twofold:
- One, we’re reducing significantly the barrier to entry to access these systems and we’re preparing the next generation of developers to learn. They can experiment, they can iterate locally on their laptop using the simulator, and without changing any of their code that they developed locally they can target multimillion-dollar systems that are online. And you have universities that instead of focusing on one single system, they can have their students learning different behaviors and strengths of various quantum computers. And you literally have access to machines you could only dream of just a few years ago.
- And so, the 2nd element that we’re seeing with Azure Quantum is really the incredible amount of interest in the optimization solutions that you’re referring to. So, the message is that we’re really preparing the quantum world of tomorrow, but we want also to give you solutions that resonate and solves problems for you. And so, we created really a portfolio for you of what we call solvers that are generic and can impact your business today.
Rene: That sounds awesome and we already got a chance to play around with it and are super impressed. Quantum as a service (QaaS) is just becoming the future of the cloud maybe? I don’t know. But definitely a huge business driver I could see there with quantum as a service (QaaS). Because like you mentioned, you can basically rent computing time on these machines instead of having to buy these super expensive machines. How can one get started with Azure Quantum?
Fabrice: Yeah so Azure Quantum is currently in what we call limited preview, but we are really accelerating bringing in new customers and we would love for [your viewers] to join us. So the easiest is to go to aka.ms/aqpreview, you give us your information and we’ll get trained and would love for [your viewers] to give us some feedback.
Rene: That’s awesome. Or you can work with partners like us at Reply that already have access and are already leveraging for solving real world challenges.
Rene: Thank you so much Fabrice for joining us today and sharing your insights. It was very much appreciated.
Fabrice: Absolutely, thank you so much Rene for having me today.
Rene: Awesome! And thanks everyone for joining us for another episode of QuBites, your bite size pieces of quantum computing. Watch our blog and our social media channels to hear about the next episodes. Take care, stay safe and see you soon. Bye bye!