About 4 months ago, I wrote for this blog an article entitled “List of Quantum Clouds”. In that article, I listed 17 “quantum clouds”. By now, there are probably a few more. The “HWB” (hardware backed) quantum clouds of Dwave, Rigetti and IBM, offer access to already existing, on-line qc hardware. I’ll call all the other quantum clouds “proxy” quantum clouds. Proxy quantum clouds can run a quantum circuit on a cloud hosted simulator or they can relay that quantum circuit to a HWB quantum cloud. Out of all the proxy quantum clouds, two of them are backed by two hungry, cruel giants called Amazon and Microsoft. The rest are backed by ants.
Will proxy quantum clouds, including the ones run by the 2 cruel giants, ever become popular or profitable? It remains to be seen.
Proxy quantum clouds are certainly not a guaranteed slam dunk from a business perspective. Users might decide to simulate their quantum circuits more cheaply by running them on their own PCs. And, if users want to run their quantum circuits on real qc hardware, they might choose to eliminate the proxy, and send their quantum circuits directly to a HWB quantum cloud. Users might eliminate the proxy middleman because it is slowing things down and charging the users a toll fee to do so.
Another important reason why proxy quantum clouds may fail, is open source software such as z2jk (Zero to Jupyterhub with Kubernetes). z2jk is free, open source software that allows anyone, even someone with almost zero understanding of the underlying docker/kuberbetes technology, to set up their own jupyterhub cloud service in minutes.
A jupyterhub, in case you are not familiar with the term, is software that can ‘spawn’ for many users, a personal file system in the browser of each user. This personal file system can open, run and save on the cloud many jupyter notebooks. So far, all quantum clouds are, deep down, jupyterhubs.
z2jk is superbly well documented and maintained by UC Berkeley, where it is used to teach many courses. Furthermore, z2jk is very sophisticated. It uses the latest in Jupyter notebook and cloud technology (Docker containers and container orchestration via Kubernetes). Due to Kubernetes, z2jk can be run on anything from a single workstation to multiple cloud providers running concurrently (cloud providers such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google cloud, Digital Ocean, IBM cloud, etc.). Kubernetes magically and seamlessly balances the load among all servers. z2jk is also very flexible: it can be used to teach any data science or quantum computing course, or you can use it to set up your own jupyterhub quantum cloud service, only for yourself, or for you and a group of your peers.
z2jk is so good that it may single-handedly put the kibosh on all proxy quantum clouds. Goodbye Amazon and Microsoft quantum clouds. Goodbye proxy quantum clouds run by startups. We hardly knew ye.