Quantum computing could eventually revolutionize the way medicines are developed, financial options are priced and climate change is managed, experts say. It's been lauded for its ability (or, at least, its potential) to complete complex calculations in a fraction of the time it would take even the fastest traditional computers today.
But until recently, access to quantum computing has been largely limited to researchers in specialized labs. Now, IBM (IBM), Microsoft (MSFT) and Amazon (AMZN) are working to provide broader access to the technology by implementing quantum computing as a service in the cloud.
The technology is in the very early stages of development, but access to quantum computing over the cloud is giving companies the chance to explore potential business applications. Such services also indicate how people are likely to use quantum computers for years to come: in the cloud and in conjunction with traditional computers.
"We're all very excited about quantum, it's amazing how it's moving forward so fast," Jeffrey Welser, vice president of IBM Research told CNN Business. "Putting it on the cloud has helped accelerate that, because you can have access without building a quantum computer yourself."
Microsoft in November announced that it would start providing access to quantum computers in its Azure cloud for select customers. A month later, Amazon Web Services announced a similar service. IBM has offered quantum computing access in its cloud since 2016, and last week announced that 100 companies now use it to experiment with quantum computing, including Delta Air Lines (DAL), Goldman Sachs (FADXX) and Daimler (DDAIF).
Broadly, the quantum cloud services will look something like this: Cloud providers will have remote data centers with quantum computers, just as they do with regular computers. Users will tap into them from their personal computers and either write their own software, or use existing software to harness the computing power without actually needing to understand how it works.
"Ultimately, the belief is that we'll use all of these devices probably just like we access regular computing," said Andrew Fursman, CEO of 1QBit, a company partnering with Azure and AWS on their quantum cloud projects. 1QBit will work with Microsoft and Amazon cloud customers to build software that addresses their business needs using quantum computing.
"When you access Gmail, you're using your computer as a portal into Google's big computer system," Fursman said. "There are lots of entities building quantum computers, they'll be accessible through the cloud."