Understanding the Emerging Quantum Data Center Opportunity

Recently a group of experts gathered at OCP Regional Summit in Lisbon to discuss how the data center and communications industry can prepare for the next disruption that is just around the corner: Quantum Technology (Computing, Communications, and Cryptography). What we learned is that the Quantum data center is already happening with many HPC installations, including Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC), Ireland and Leibniz Supercomputing Centre, large colocation providers, including Equinix are already deploying Quantum machines in their data centers, large communications providers including Telefonica and British Telecom  are deploying services using Quantum communications technology and Hyperscale Cloud Providers such as Microsoft are investing in Quantum Cryptography.

What became apparent during the session was that standardizations can significantly move the market forward, and several efforts are already underway at ISO, ITU and IEEE. Two standardization areas that the OCP Community has significant experience that can be brought to bear is (1) with common standards for DC Facilities, and (2) with interconnections between classical and Quantum machines. Quantum technology will need to be integrated within our existing computational and communications landscape in the coming years. The time is right to set strategies and lay plans as the march towards useful and usable quantum computing and communications is nearing its destination.

Taking a deeper look at what it takes to integrate a Quantum machine into a data center facility, we heard from Equinix on the requirements they have had to consider when integrating Quantum Machines from Alice and Bob. The list of requirements they had to cover included the following:

  • Cooling, Sound & Electromagnetic shielding: To protect against external interference, new approvals & best practises required.
  • Space: Quantum computers can be large and require dedicated space within the data center. Loading and access considerations.
  • Connectivity: Quantum computers often require high-speed and low-latency connections to transfer data to and from the computer.
  • Security: Quantum computers are highly sensitive to external interference, Robust security measures to protect the quantum computer from unauthorized access and potential attacks are paramount.
  • Compatibility: Compatibility of the quantum computer with existing systems and infrastructure in the data center. Modifications are necessary to integrate the quantum computer seamlessly.
  • Ecosystem Access: Direct access not only to Enterprises but also Cloud platforms as well as a wealth of GSIs & ISVs. Easy integration with Metal for developers and software providers

We also heard from the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC), Ireland that Quantum computing and simulation (QCS) systems need to evolve and one important catalyst to accelerate this evolution will be interfacing QCS to HPC to expand access, development and adoption. It is believed that QCS are potential accelerators for HPC, HPC enables emulation of QCS, and QCS could leverage HPC for operation (e.g. control and error).

The challenges that are still hard to overcome include:

  • Deployment, interconnection and operation of experimental QCS systems alongside operational HPC environments
  • Disconnected/siloed development and usage of system software, programming tools, workflows between HPC and QCS
  • Identification and demonstration of use-cases for co-design and evaluation of HPC-QCS systems
  • Critical need for interdisciplinary knowledge transfer and skills development

Possible solutions outlined include

  • Build a global community with members and activities around topics for HPC-QCS through a hub-spoke model
  • Implement sustained, structured discussions and developments towards community-driven best practices, white papers, etc.
  • Enable defining and developing solutions for deploying, operating and using hybrid
  • HPC-QCS systems, tools and applications

Computing is currently undergoing a rapid evolutionary phase, driven by the enormous datasets and computational requirements of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML). Performance levels that were once considered the domain of High-Performance Computing (HPC) just a few years ago are now becoming mainstream as hyperscale data centers rush to bring exaflop capacity to bear. In this context, Quantum Computing (QC) is emerging as the new frontier of HPC systems and use cases. There is a growing body of identified use cases specifically for quantum algorithms and as can be inferred from findings above, the initial focus is use of QC as acceleration in HPC systems; beyond that the ultimate role QC systems will play is not clear yet. The OCP Foundation is working to support the OCP Community in meeting these next-generation challenges.

The Complete Special focus Quantum track was recorded and slides are also available here. This content can help you understand how quantum can affect you in the next 3-5 years, some of the current use cases, and what the quantum data center looks like.  Moving forward the OCP expects to explore efforts on community-led standardization for the Quantum DC, multi-vendor supply chain for components, and enabling quantum ready data center facilities, and standardizations for interfaces between classical and quantum processors.