A Roadmap to Quantum Data Centres in Space
Published on : Sunday 04-04-2021
A new paradigm of ‘Space Computing’ will open up new opportunities like its predecessor Cloud Computing, says Adnyesh Dalpati.
Cloud Computing is a synonym for every company. Cloud computing helps host applications with ease onto the internet. The companies which provide cloud computing have gone far ahead within the last decade to help deliver applications and services online.
The earlier concepts of having a server at a data centre and maintaining it is replaced by moving onto cloud. Also, cloud offers a plethora of automated services which make it simple and seamless to move any application to cloud with ease versus procuring a server, maintaining it and updating it. All the pain-points of having to do it yourself are removed by cloud computing services. Overall it was an abstraction of Data Centre activities replaced by efficient out of the box applications, which help deploy applications with ease without worrying about the finer details of maintaining the processing power, space and bandwidth.
Then there is a variation in Cloud computing called Edge Computing or Fog Computing. The concept was introduced for specific use cases, where an extension to cloud computing was needed on the basis of Geo-locations. Edge simply means moving the computing near to where the application is being used. These are very specific use cases which combine along with the Internet of Things (IoT) and also without it on private networks. Edge computing helps deploying applications or services at locations where ultra-low latencies are required. This helps to reduce the round time which is required to reach the cloud and back. These small data centres at the specific Geo-location, help provide the right amount of processing power/operations and storage to help run few applications at the edge. Also, the data generated through these devices is selectively sent to the cloud after processing at edge. This helped a lot since now the mini data centres extended the power and capabilities executing such use cases. The enterprise use cases could be like detecting problems at an oil rig, warehouse automation through robots, autonomous driving and the list goes on. However, the real power of edge computing is when your mobile phone becomes an edge device itself. Nowadays, mobile phones have far more efficient computers than even many desktops or laptops. These are like mini servers running applications. Mobiles help connect to your home appliance system, your home security systems, WiFi network or local LAN network, Geo-location based service system and the list goes on. It is like carrying a mini data centre in your pocket. The mobile phones become a gateway between devices, which is isolated from the world to the world of the internet. Even machines which do not have such an inbuilt provision can be made IoT devices with ease, e.g., Normal TV with HDMI port can be converted to smart TV using an Amazon Fire Stick or Google Chromecast.
But now there is a paradigm shift happening in coming years when it comes to computing power. With the advent of Quantum computers it is obvious that Quantum computing is far more superior to the best super computers available.
Google scientists said that Sycamore (Quantum Computer) could solve a specific problem in a mere 200 s, while estimating that a powerful supercomputer would take a whopping 10,000 years to perform the same task.
This will open up possibilities which we have never thought of, e.g., new scientific discoveries, mathematical model simulations, machine learning and artificial intelligence, genetic modelling, cryptography, etc., which were barely possible due to computing limitations. Also, such systems when commercialised will empower people to discover and research on things which were earlier only accessible to the few due to commercial non viability or limited expertise.
Like we know bits in computers there are Qubits in Quantum computing. Quantum computers in their current state require specialised environment due to the fragile nature of Qubits. Noise, temperature change, an electrical fluctuation or vibration, radiation all of these things can disturb a Qubit’s operation and cause it to lose its data. One way to stabilise Qubits is to keep in a dilution refrigerator that uses a special isotope of helium to cool them a fraction of a degree above absolute zero (roughly -273 degrees Celsius). Such temperatures or setup is difficult to be achieved naturally and need to be artificially created in labs. But what if Quantum computers are to be used in large scale and commercialised? The locations that could be the best possible match for such data centres could be deep down the earth or in space. Quantum computers are already used by NASA for various space missions and also exploring how such computers can be leveraged for different use cases in space explorations. The data centres in space are also experimented along with specialised laboratories below earth surface. Think of it like a satellite bundled with a Quantum computer that can be launched and will be orbiting the earth. They could be self-sustaining and self-healing due to solar or nuclear energy. These can be operated through low earth orbit (LEO) satellites for command and control as well as data transmission. Such internet broadband providers are also available these days thanks to projects like Starlink by Elon Musk or Amazon Project Kuiper which can easily make it commercialised from Day 1. There is a paper published on Quantum Technologies in space and its road map (see references).
Having Quantum Computers in space is a near reality now; however there are various challenges too of keeping Quantum Computers in space due to interference of cosmic rays, which can disturb their fragile inner workings and limit the kinds of calculations.
The Quantum race has already begun which is aligned to the Moore’s Law of Computing; however the transistors now will be replaced by Qubits.
Google showed up its Quantum supremacy through the Sycamore Project with 54 Qubits processors. Later Jiuzhang published a research paper where it has achieved a better efficiency than Google Quantum Computer. Zapata Computing with Honeywell claims of 60 Qubits processors. Also, IBM claims it can create a 1000 Qubits processor by 2023.
When such systems will be available and made to work perfectly in Space a new paradigm of ‘Space Computing’ will open up new opportunities like its predecessor Cloud Computing. So hoping to see this term used more often than before.
Adnyesh Dalpati is an Enterprise Architect, Technologist and an Internet of Things (IoT) Evangelist with 15+ years of experience working in Investment Banks, Stock Exchanges, Cloud
Companies, Media Companies, and Telecom. He has held executive positions in JP Morgan, NSE and Alef Edge (US-based Edge Computing Company) and currently serving as Chief Technology Officer in 4 Marketing Technology.
Adnyesh has developed many low latencies, high performance and scalable solutions using nextgen technologies like Edge Computing, Marketing Technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual & Augmented Reality (AR/VR) and Blockchain Technology Applications catering to domains in Telco, Finance, Logistics, Media and Retail. He also runs two social initiatives – Eureka Moment and Storypedia – to motivate youth. An advocate of the 4th Industrial Revolution and a member of various technology groups, he also speaks about next-gen technology and its use cases on his BrightTALK channel and conducts seminars, workshops on technology at various forums.