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Do Data Centres Need To Start Preparing For Quantum Computers?

Sun Aug 15 2021

Many experts agree we need to decide on what ‘form’ quantum computing will take first

Whilst it does depend on who you ask, most experts expect quantum computing to be firmly established in the next decade.

In fact, many leading tech giants, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, AWS and IBM Cloud, are already offering very early trials for selected clients on pilot quantum programs.

But… do those early trials mean data centre managers need to start planning ahead to replace all their equipment with quantum computers?

According to leading researchers in the field, the answer to that question will massively depend on which of the current quantum technologies achieves marker viability.

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The early lead is with IBM and Google right now, and they are working using a technology that requires very low temperatures. There's a lot of infrastructure around the processor that is pretty big and cumbersome and is in some sense kind of hard to scale, but they're working on it.

Dr. Celia Merzbacher - Executive Director, Quantum Economic Development Consortium

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Currently, other companies are working on quantum technology that won’t require cooling the machines core components to nearly absolute zero for them to work. If those technologies can be proven to be successful (and affordable) then quantum computing might not end up only being commercially viable for public cloud organisations.


Many newer start-ups are experimenting with such technologies, some with ‘trapped ions’, whilst others attempt to use photons as qubits.

As none of these alternative technologies require any kind of super cooling, then traditional rack mounted data centre set-ups could become possible… but with quantum computers.

Smart data centre managers are already keeping an eye on which of these technologies becomes standard.

Which Of The Quantum Technologies Is Likely To Succeed?

The short answer is… no one really knows yet.

With multiple, disparate technologies under development, no one, not even the experts, are quite sure which quantum computing model will achieve success, let alone market dominance.

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In the early days of microprocessors, there was a debate on whether computer chips should be made of silicon or germanium. There were arguments for germanium. It's a better system for semiconductor computing in some sense, but it's expensive, not as easy to manufacture, and it's not as common, so in the end, it was silicon. Quantum computing hasn't reached a point where everybody settled on a technology here, and so there still is uncertainty. It may be that the IBM approach is better for certain types of computing, and then the trapped-ion approaches [are] better for others.

A standalone quantum computer certainly is not going to be a plug-in replacement for existing computers, not even high-performance computers. There are some types of problems that a classical computer is always going to be better for.

Dr. Celia Merzbacher - Executive Director, Quantum Economic Development Consortium

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Sun Aug 15 2021

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