In the summer of 2022, the first cryostat was installed in the Quantum Integration Centre (QIC) of the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ). Many of the guests of honour who had come to the LRZ's 60th birthday celebrations, were keen to take a look at the gleaming golden device and thus at the future of computer technology, such as Bavaria's Science Minister Markus Blume. Cryostats support quantum computing and cool the quantum processors they contain. Having arrived and been installed at the LRZ, the first Quantum Processing Unit (QPU), based on superconducting technology, is ready for experimentation and testing.
Working to bring quantum computing into the everyday world of science and research – the LRZ has made great strides towards this goal in recent months: "We have first familiarised ourselves with the new technology and gathered knowledge for its operation," reports Prof. Dieter Kranzlmüller, head of the LRZ. "2023 will be the year of computer science research and development for quantum computing.” Together with partners from the Munich Quantum Valley (MQV), universities and institutes, the LRZ will realise hardware and components, software and applications for the new computing technology and build an infrastructure for its use. Also on the agenda: integrating the new quantum processors in supercomputers.
Systems Moving In
In the next few months, another cryostat will start its installation process at LRZ. Part of the project Q-Exa, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), this will house the first quantum demonstrator for Germany with 20 qubits and will become available for researchers in early 2024. Additionally, a procurement is currently out for a third system, non-superconducting, to take its place in LRZ’s QIC. Lastly, work is already underway to prepare for the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking quantum system that will be installed at LRZ in the medium term. A few of the systems will initially be available exclusively for project partner science, and used for intense research and development on several fronts, including system software development, application co-design and integration of quantum acceleration workflows into LRZ’s current and upcoming supercomputing systems. The Q-Exa and coming Euro-Q-Exa systems are designed to be workhorses for the quantum and HPC-quantum research communities with the tools and methods gained from the R&D program applied to the production-level systems. Scouting and evaluation of new technologies is a constant activity with target to expand the technology diversity. The portfolio of systems, from testbed level to production quality, allows LRZ and the QCT team to develop a robust offering of quantum technology types for users from different domains and different workflow styles.
Not only are the physical quantum systems coming into LRZ, but development is underway to help users access the systems when they become available for general use. One such tool is the Bavarian Quantum Portal (BQP), which allows users the flexibility to access multiple types of systems, from hardware to simulators (like the Atos Quantum Learning Machine, short QLM), and to use different frameworks in which they are accustomed (QisKit, Cirq, etc). Again, the focus is to provide a portfolio of options while making it as easy as possible to use for the diverse research community expressing interest in this new and promising computing opportunity.
Greater results through entanglement of project work and collaboration
"Our strategy of selecting and structuring project and funding applications in such a way that they build on each other and work in parallel was confirmed last year," Laura Schulz, head of Quantum Computing and Technologies at LRZ. "This has helped us to bundle our strengths and accelerate our goals." LRZ is part of almost a dozen calls for proposals and initiatives related to the expansion of quantum computing in Bavaria, Germany and Europe. Most of the projects are aimed at establishing an infrastructure in partnerships for easy access to the technology of the future, developing components, operating software and applications, and integrating quantum computing into high-performance computing (HPC). "After the initial preparatory work, we are focusing on the connection to supercomputing and the integration into HPC," continues Schulz. "We are currently working on making the first quantum unit accessible to the LRZ supercomputer, and we are experimenting with ways to integrate quantum processors more deeply into HPC resources. The idea is to fully maximize the accelerator capabilities of quantum processers with the supporting foundation of the advanced ecosystem of high-performance computing."
Lynchpins of LRZ's activities come from the Munich Quantum Valley (MQV) and the BMBF projects DAQC and "Extending Quantum Computing through Exascale HPC" (Q-Exa). With DAQC, the BMBF funded the acquisition of a first quantum processor and the kick-off work towards the development of a hybrid system. This system is the nucleus for the construction of LRZ’s quantum program and for the preparation for Q-Exa, a larger quantum demonstrator that will be made available for research and will more tightly integrate with the next supercomputer planned at the LRZ. The experience gained from both projects will in turn feed into the preparations for a European quantum computer, which the LRZ will host and operate on behalf of the European HPC Joint Undertaking. The Bavarian Quantum Portal is also being designed with European needs in mind and is working in concert with other access portals in development across Europe.
Qualification is part of the programme
In cooperation with the MQV and in national and European research partnerships, the LRZ will further contribute to the development of the operating software and application programmes across the continent. With BADW's sister, the Walther-Meißner-Institute in Garching, the LRZ also has a partner in the immediate vicinity that is globally recognised in the field of cryogenic cooling and quantum systems.
The European research projects OpenSuperQPlus and Millenion are new additions to the LRZ's portfolio. What they have in common: Develop quantum technologies at breakthrough scales. At the core of all the acquisition, capability research and development at LRZ lies the user. Tight partnerships with the user base are nurtured and valued for their input. For example, the LRZ cooperates with the Fraunhofer Institute for Cognitive Systems (IKS) in Munich as part of both MQV and BMBF projects in the development of software and applications. Dr Jeanette Lorenz, who heads the new Quantum Enhanced AI department there, is one of LRZ’s collaboration partners. She and her team provide use cases, target applications and formulate requirements from the community. “Such partners help us identify and prioritize the needs and problems of users, on which we can further adapt and optimise technology and software," says Dr. Luigi Iapichino, head of the User Enablement and Applications team in the QCT, describing the synergy effects.
Training future quantum and hybrid specialists is also a priority for LRZ. While the QCT team continues to grow to around 40 regular staff by the end of 2023, its future-focused workforce development program is already in motion. The QCT team works with the Bavarian universities for local student positions, with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for students from abroad and with the Deggendorf Institute of Technology (DIT) for applied specialist career development in hybrid HPCQC. “We are actively involved in the effort to create more skilled talent in this space as a leading supercomputing centre and we embrace our role to help create future experts”, Kranzlmüller comments. “We’ve been impressed with the quality and drive of the candidates – it’s clear QC and HPCQC has a bright future ahead.”