Cisco pursues quantum technology | network world

When it comes to hardcore quantum computing players, Cisco may not be the first company you think of, but that could change a lot in 2022 and beyond.

For starters, the company is investing in the development of photonics, which will enable quantum communications, as well as other hardware and software technologies for quantum computing, networking, and cryptography.

The development of quantum technologies was also one of the top predictions on Cisco EVP, General Manager and Chief Strategy Officer Liz Centoni’s list of 2022 predictions.

“Quantum computing, communications and security will drive a faster and more secure future that requires a reinvention of how systems work and communicate across an evolved Internet with even lower latency and higher bandwidth,” Centoni stated. “Quantum computing and security will be interconnected very differently than classical communications networks, which transmit bits and bytes to provide voice and data information.”

Of particular interest to Cisco is the future development of quantum networks, data centers, and Internet technologies.

“Quantum networks could enable a new type of secure connection between digital devices, making them impenetrable to hackers,” Centoni said. “As this kind of foolproof security can be achieved with quantum networks, it could lead to better fraud protection for transactions. Additionally, this higher quality of secure connectivity can also protect voice and data communications from any interference or eavesdropping. All of these possibilities would reshape the Internet we know and use today.”

Looking closer, Cisco’s vision is twofold: build quantum data centers that can use classical LAN concepts to link quantum computers together to communicate to solve big problems, or a quantum-based network that transmits quantum bits. [qubits] from quantum servers at high speeds to handle commercial-grade applications, he said Ramana Kompella a distinguished engineer and head of research in Cisco’s emerging technology and incubation group.

“We envision a hybrid network environment that would support classical signaling and other technologies that use photonics to transmit qubits from server to server,” Kompella said.

Photonics technology, which uses light to transmit data and control a variety of network mechanisms, will also play an important role in most quantum environments, Kompella said.

“Given the engineering complexity of different technologies, we envision photonics to play a central role in realizing large-scale quantum computers, whether for single-chip processors or building a distributed computing system,” wrote Alireza Shabani, Cisco engineer, in a recent article. Blog talking about why photonics technology will play such an important role in quantum networks.

“Currently, the focus of quantum computing hardware projects is to exhibit units of less than a hundred qubits, while the challenges start when we want to scale systems to thousands and eventually millions. Which technology platform is most likely to scale the fastest depends on the complexity of the hardware system and architecture,” Shabani wrote. “Modularity is a way to reduce system complexity, which in the case of quantum computing can be achieved by having quantum chips connected through photonic interconnections in a distributed manner. In addition to scalability, photonic networks enable full connectivity between modules, resulting in a huge boost in system computational power.”

While some of the theories behind quantum data center networks are embryonic at this point, the notion of a quantum Internet is more advanced.

For example, scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei announced a year ago what they claimed was the world’s first integrated quantum communication network. The network connected more than 700 ground-based optical fibers with two ground-satellite links to achieve quantum key distribution over a distance of nearly 3,000 miles for users across China.

“Unlike conventional encryption, quantum communication is considered unhackable and thus the future of secure information transfer for banks, power grids and other sectors,” the scientists said. fixed. “The core of quantum communication is quantum key distribution (QKD), which uses the quantum states of particles, for example photons, to form a chain of zeros and ones, while any eavesdropping between sender and receiver will change this string or key and be noticed immediately.”

Cisco is part of the Center for Quantum Networks which aims to build the quantum internet, which it says will fuel new tech industries and a competitive market of quantum service providers and app developers.

The European Quantum Internet Alliance and the US Department of Energy they also seek to bring together industrial and academic partners to promote quantum communications.

In fact, quantum internet will be primarily for security use cases where users need to communicate securely from location to location over many miles, Kompella said. “The technologies to develop the quantum internet and the security use case are being developed all over the world,” Kompella said.

Other applications will be developed, such as privacy-preserving applications, also known as blind computing, where quantum servers handle the work without “knowing” all the information about the work. Fraud detection, particle simulation and weather applications are all targets that distributed quantum technology must work on, Kompella said.

Cisco also has many irons in the fire of quantum development. Cisco Research published a request for proposal for Quantum Technologies in January 2021 which is still open, looking at a variety of technologies including:

  • Photon sources and detection technology.
  • Fabrication methods and materials for photonic integrated circuits.
  • Quantum networking applications
  • Quantum cryptography beyond QKD
  • Security of quantum cryptography protocols

Cisco has already partnered with UC Santa Barbara to develop a quantum photonic chip.

Cisco is part of a growing quantum community that includes IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Baidu, Honeywell, Quantinuum and many others. Other traditional network competitors are also getting into the game. Last September, Juniper and the quantum specialists at Arquit Quantum formed a technology partnership to develop network security technology that will protect against quantum security threats.

Certainly, the technology is just beginning to take shape, and Kompella and others say the industry is five to 10 years away from significant adoption. But the interest is certainly there, as Gartner expects almost 40% of large companies to have some quantum initiatives by 2025 and IDC projects the global quantum computing market will be worth $8.6 billion in 2027.

Major advances in quantum computing technology, a maturing quantum computing infrastructure and platform-as-a-service market, and the growth of performance-intensive computing workloads suitable for quantum technology will drive most of the market growth , said IDC.

“Over the next decade, the quantum computing hype will continue. Across the vendor and service provider landscape, CIOs will be challenged by those who don’t promise but don’t deliver on quality assurance capabilities,” said Chirag Dekate, Gartner analyst at the recent IT/Xpo 2021 Symposium. of the company. “Quantum computing is not a general problem. specific purpose technology and can currently only be applied to a limited set of use cases: optimization problems, organic chemistry, materials science, biochemistry, and safety. Gartner anticipates that this list will grow over the next five to 10 years.”

Quantum computing is at a tipping point in terms of funding, research and experimentation, Kompella said. “Cisco has played an incredible role in developing and building digital infrastructure, and quantum is one of those technologies that has a building block. Our research looks for the next big innovation with the goal of creating new product offerings for Cisco,” said Kompella.

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