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What Quantum Computing Could Mean for Software Development

By IQT News posted 16 Nov 2020

(InformationWeek) As speculative as quantum software development sounds, it is not an entirely alien concept. There is a broad class of quantum algorithms, said Yudong Cao, founder and CTO for startup Zapata Computing, that share similar features as machine learning models. “If you look at MLOps or AIOps, this is very much the sort of software engineering challenge [in quantum software] that people also face with AI.” He leads an effort at Zapata to provide software that might help industrial players explore possibilities of quantum computing.
There is a frontier emerging for quantum computing thanks to software solutions and hardware maturing, but Cao said the confusing ecosystem needs to be sorted out. “What is needed is a set of tools that allow people to tap into this diverse landscape effectively,” he said. For instance, Cao said there can be software engineering issues such as framework compatibility, particularly when a developer wants to tap into tools from the open source world.
The scale of quantum computing could also introduce issues with data management, comparable to the intensive data seen with machine learning and AI, with the potential to scale up. “The dimensions of the data space can become very large,” Cao said.
Academic interests in quantum software development can be complementary in certain ways to industry’s need such computing resources, according to Prineha Narang, assistant professor at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. She is also founder and CTO of startup Aliro Quantum.
Overall, these are still early days for quantum software development, with new discoveries ahead, said Will Zeng, head of quantum research for Goldman Sachs. He said he has been assessing what affect quantum computing may have on core processes. “In the last few years, we’ve been able to show we can build some quantum computers as an industry,” Zeng said. “Not great quantum computers — early, prototype quantum computers.”
Developing valuable applications with quantum is the big next hurdle, he said.
Quantum software might eventually play a role in working more efficiently, Zeng said, but quantum computing still has a way to go before its potential is realized. “In the quantum space right now, we’re not ready to be planning production deployments yet,” he said. “We’re in the stage before that.”

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