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Amazon Braket brings Xanadu’s Borealis to the cloud

By Dan O'Shea posted 03 Jun 2022

Xanadu earlier this week stirred up the quantum sector with its claim that it had achieved quantum computational advantage using its Borealis photonic-based quantum processing unit. Now, Amazon Braket users have a chance to check out Borealis and Xanadu’s claim for themselves, as Borealis has became the latest QPU available via the cloud service, the first photonic QPU on Braket, and the first one connected to a claim of quantum advantage.

Xanadu said in its earlier announcement that Borealis would become available through Amazon Braket, and Braket made it official a day later in a blog post. Customers can access Borealis on Amazon Braket by using Xanadu’s Strawberry Fields open source library for photonic quantum computing.

The Amazon Braket blog post also delves into the Gaussian Boson Sampling (GBS) problem that Borealis tackled to demonstrate quantum advantage, and why that particular problem is a key measuring stick for quantum advantage. The blog post stated, “The problem is to sample from a photon number output distribution after sending coherent states of light through an optical interferometer. There are strong, complex theoretical arguments for why this task is hard for classical computers, i.e., the compute requirements grow exponentially with the number of optical modes in the interferometer. Also empirically, there are no known classical algorithms to efficiently sample from such output distributions.”

The blog post later stated, “By the authors’ assessment it would take, on average, 9,000 years of classical computation time on Fugaku to generate a single sample produced from the experiment, compared to only 36 microseconds on Borealis. Of course, it remains to be seen if researchers can devise other, more efficient algorithms, but the computational gap between the classical and quantum computations claimed in the publication (9,000 years vs. 36 microseconds) would put Borealis well into the quantum advantage regime.”

The ability to evaluate Borealis via the cloud shortly after this claim, documented in Nature, was made also demonstrates the value of cloud services like Braket, as many users otherwise would not have access to the system. 

As Richard Moulds, general manager of Amazon Braket for Amazon Web Services, noted at the recent IQT Quantum Enterprise event in San Diego, “Cloud is really great for turning on a ton of resources very quickly, and giving you what you need to evaluate and compare hardware you don’t have in your lab. Cloud is all about getting started easily.”

Dan O’Shea has covered telecommunications and related topics including semiconductors, sensors, retail systems, digital payments and quantum computing/technology for over 25 years.

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