Alibaba looks to quantum computing for next-gen cloud
Alibaba’s cloud computing unit Aliyun has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) that will see the two set up a quantum computing lab to study the technology’s applications in security, networking and cloud computing.
The lab will focus on experimenting with quantum theory in a bid to develop novel security technologies for e-commerce and datacentres (including, potentially, its own) and bolstering computing performance.
“The CAS – Alibaba Quantum Computing Laboratory will undertake frontier research on systems that appear the most promising in realizing the practical applications of quantum computing,” said Jianwei Pan, executive vice president of University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) and a CAS member.
“The laboratory will combine the technical advantages of Aliyun in classical calculation algorithms, structures and cloud computing with those of CAS in quantum computing, quantum analog computing and quantum artificial intelligence, so as to break the bottlenecks of Moore’s Law and classical computing,” Pan said.
The organisations said they want the lab to become a hub for international research in quantum computing and help create local talent in quantum computing.
Jian Wang, chief technology officer of Alibaba Group said: “This investment in the development and application of quantum computing reflects the scale and clarity of our long-term vision to collaborate with partners in an ecosystem model towards the sustained development of the economy and society.”
“New discoveries in information security and computing capacity based on quantum computing could be as significant in the future as big data technologies are today,” he added.
Quantum computing offers a number of benefits – the biggest being its theoretical ability to crunch eye-watering amounts of data extremely quickly, which means security monitoring and defence as well as big data and HPC are looking like the best applications for the technology so far. But quantum computing in practice is still quite nascent and confronted by a range of challenges – cost, lack of software, lack of commercial availability, lack of standards at the processor level are some of the biggest.