IBM expands access to quantum computing

While several companies have quantum computing research projects, one company has been able to deliver consistent and exceptional products over the years: IBM. Earlier this year, IBM updated its quantum computing offerings and added new managed quantum systems for select international clients. And the continued progress IBM is making shows that quantum computing is here to stay and has an exciting future for solving complex computing problems. We’re also expecting an update on IBM’s quantum computing roadmap at IBM Think this week.

Quantum computing is not perfect for all problems. It is best used in complex problems, such as the simulation of chemical systems or some machine learning applications. Currently, these types of problems are usually solved using supercomputers. But these problems become exponentially more difficult to compute as the number of variables increases. The ability of a quantum computer to use quantum mechanics to solve these problems in an entirely new way can change these exponentially large problems to problems that scale linearly in the number of variables. The problems include areas where researchers are trying to simulate quantum chemistry (also called quantum mechanics), the material sciences, and high-energy physics. For business operations, quantum computing can help with portfolio optimizations, risk analysis, and Monte Carlo simulations. There is also overlap with AI in areas such as model training, pattern recognition, and fraud detection. The results of the quantum computation are not a pure binary “yes-no” answer, but rather a probabilistic distribution output. To help take full advantage of quantum computers with error mitigation and faster run times, IBM now offers Qiskit Runtime fundamental building block primitives to sample or estimate quantities based on this distribution output.

In April 2022, IBM gave an updated status of its quantum computing program. IBM has more than 20 operating systems that are accessed by more than 410,000 users performing more than 3.5 billion executions per day. The IBM Quantum Partner Network has more than 180 members, including more than twenty centers (regional centers), more than ten industry joint development partners, more than forty startups, and more than thirty academic researchers. IBM is also building regional centers like Fraunhofer (Germany) and the University of Tokyo (Japan) that are operational today. More regional sites will come online in 2023, including the Cleveland Clinic (Ohio, USA), Yonsei University (South Korea), and Quebec (Canada).

There have been more than 800 publications in more than 45 cluster application areas used by IBM Quantum Network partners. Well-known IBM partners include: Fraunhofer, Samsung, Boing, Dell, Goldman Sachs, BP, ExxonMobil, Deloitte, and Oak Ridge National Labs.

Market analysis by Boston Consulting Group

The benefit of solving these problems extends beyond the scientific value to the actual creation of market opportunities. A market analysis by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) puts added market value creation at over $3 billion in 2024 and continuing to grow from there. We have only just begun to harness the potential of quantum computing.

Last year, IBM announced its “Eagle” quantum computer. Eagle is a 127-qubit quantum processor and currently IBM’s highest-performance quantum computer. For more information on this, see the IBM blog.

However, the scale of a quantum chip (measured in qubits) is only one of three metrics that can be used to measure the performance of a quantum processor. Performance is also determined by quality and speed as measured by quantum volume and Circuit Layer Operations Per Second (CLOPS), areas that IBM is also focused on improving with each generation.

Access to quantum hardware

But the progress in quantum computing is more than just hardware, it’s also the software support and libraries available. As IBM said in its blog post: “The programming and execution model for the next phase of quantum computing must be fast, efficient, easy to use and scalable.”

MORE FROM FORBESIBM reveals five-year quantum development roadmap

IBM started by creating a large community of users who adopted its Qiskit open source environment. In 2021, the company improved execution speed and improved modularity with the containerized Qiskit Runtime. With Qiskit Runtime, users can bundle quantum and classical execution into programs that run on a classical computing infrastructure co-located with IBM Quantum systems. IBM changed the execution model of a service running circuits sequentially, which required long communication trips to the user’s computer and back to the Quantum computer. With Qiskit Runtime, users configure programs that run close to the quantum computer, eliminating performance bottlenecks. IBM Quantum accelerated quantum chemistry algorithm workloads 120x with Qiskit Runtime.

For the foreseeable future, quantum computers will be accessed through the cloud. It is more or less a Quantum-as-a-Service (QaaS) model. So far, IBM has basically had two quantum computing commitments: One is free for students and people experimenting and learning about quantum. The other has been an (expensive) institutional-level engagement with IBM for access to premium offerings, even the latest systems.

But now IBM has added a third option called “pay as you go” to reach a broader community of developers and researchers. This new plan is aimed at experts who are looking for high-end quantum systems but don’t have the corporate spending power to sign multi-year deals. This could include academics and smaller research companies. There is no minimum spend on the pay-as-you-go plan, but you must sign up for a free IBM cloud account. Currently, pay-as-you-go plan offerings are only available on 27-qubit machines. Users can develop demanding quantum programs using Qiskit Runtime primitives and run them on IBM quantum systems at a rate of $1.60 per second of runtime.

The free open plan is still available but is limited to 5 qubit and below quantum computers but is a great place to start and for entry level quantum developers.


IBM has consistently delivered on what it promised in its aggressive quantum computing roadmap and the company has no plans to slow down. Updating the IBM Quantum Development roadmap in IBM Think will be the subject of a later article.

Tirias Research tracks and advises companies across the electronics ecosystem, from semiconductors to systems and sensors to the cloud. Members of the Tirias Research team have consulted with IBM, Nvidia, Qualcomm and other companies in the AI ​​and Quantum ecosystems.

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