Cisco is getting involved in quantum technologies

Cisco research aims to develop quantum networks, data centers, and Internet technologies that will connect differently from traditional networks.

When it comes to diehard gamers in quantum computing, Cisco may not be the first company that comes to mind, but that may change a lot in 2022 and beyond. To begin with, the company is investing in the development of photonics, which will enable quantum communication as well as other hardware and software technologies for quantum computing, networking and encryption. The development of quantum technologies was also one of the best predictions on the list of 2022 predictions from Liz Centoni, executive vice president, general manager and chief strategy officer for Cisco. “Quantum computers, communications and security will nurture a faster and more secure future that requires a reinvention of how systems work and communicate through an advanced Internet with even lower latency and higher bandwidth,” Ms Centoni explained. “Quantum computing and security will interconnect very differently from conventional communication networks, which transmit bits and bytes to provide voice information and data.”

Cisco is particularly interested in the future development of quantum-based networks, data centers, and Internet technologies. “Quantum networks can enable a new kind of secure connection between digital devices, making them impervious to hacks,” the leader said. “As this kind of foolproof security becomes achievable with quantum networks, it can lead to better fraud protection for transactions. In addition, this secure connection of higher quality can also protect voice and data communications from interference or espionage. All these possibilities would transform the Internet that we know and use today. “

Very pragmatic quantum

On closer inspection, Cisco’s vision is twofold: to build quantum data centers that could use classic LAN concepts to connect quantum computers to communicate to solve large problems, or a quantum network that transmits quantum bits [qubits] from quantum servers at high speeds to processing commercial applications, said Ramana Kompella, a senior engineer and head of research at the Cisco Emerging Tech and Incubation Group. “We envision a hybrid networking environment that will 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 networking mechanisms, will also play an important role in most quantum environments, Kompella said. “Given the technical complexity of different technologies, we believe that photonics will play a central role in the construction of quantum computers on a large scale, whether it is single-chip processors or distributed computing systems,” Alireza wrote. Shabani, an engineer at Cisco, in a recent blog that explains why photonics technology will play such an important role in quantum networking.

“Currently, quantum computing hardware projects focus on devices of less than a hundred qubits, while the challenges begin when we want to scale systems to thousands or even millions. The technology platform most likely to scale faster depends on the complexity of the hardware system and architecture, “Shabani writes.” Modularity is a way of reducing system complexity, which in the case of quantum computation can be achieved by connecting quantum chips through photonic connections in a distributed way. In addition to scalability, photonic networks allow full connection between modules, resulting in a significant increase in system computing power. “

On the way to the quantum internet

While some of the theories behind quantum data center networks are embryonic at this time, the notion of a quantum internet is more advanced. For example, researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei announced a year ago what they claim to be the world’s first integrated quantum communications network. The network connected more than 700 optical fibers on the ground to two terrestrial-to-satellite connections to ensure the distribution of quantum keys over a distance of nearly 5,000 km for users across China. “Unlike conventional encryption, quantum communication is considered tamper-proof and therefore represents the future of secure information transfer for banks, power grids and other industries,” the researchers said. “The heart of quantum communication is quantum key distribution (QKD), which uses the quantum states of particles – for example photons – to form a string of zeros and ones, while any interception between sender and receiver will change this string or key and will be noticed immediately.”

Cisco is part of the Center for Quantum Networks, which aims to build the quantum Internet, which it says will spur new technology industries and a competitive market for quantum service providers and application developers. The European Quantum Internet Alliance and the US Department of Energy are also seeking to bring together industrial and academic partners to promote quantum communications. According to Kompella, the quantum internet will in fact primarily be for safety-related use cases, where users must communicate safely from place to place over several kilometers. “The technologies for developing the quantum Internet and the security use case are being developed around the world,” said Kommella.

A promising market: 8.6 billion in 2027

Other applications will be developed, such as privacy applications, also known as blind computing, where quantum servers process jobs without “knowing” all the information about those jobs. Fraud detection, particle simulation and climate applications are all targets that distributed quantum technology can work on, according to Kompella. Cisco also has a lot of iron in the fire in quantum development. In January 2021, Cisco Research released a Quantum Technologies RFP, which is still open and looking for a variety of technologies, including the following:

Photon sources and detection technology

Methods and materials for manufacturing photonic integrated circuits

Quantum network applications

Quantum encryption in addition to QKD

The security of quantum cryptography protocols.

Cisco has already partnered with UC Santa Barbara to develop a quantum photonic chip. San Jose OEM is part of a growing quantum community that includes IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Baidu, Honeywell, Quantinuum and more. Other traditional competitors in the networking sector are also entering the fray. Last September, Juniper and quantum specialists Arquit Quantum entered into a technology partnership to develop network security technology to protect against quantum security threats. Technology has certainly only begun to take shape, and Mr Kompella and others say the industry will not be adopted significantly until in five to ten years. But interest is certainly there, as Gartner predicts that nearly 40% of large companies will have quantum initiatives in place by 2025, and IDC predicts that the global quantum computer market will represent $ 8.6 billion by 2027.

Major breakthroughs in quantum computer technology, the maturation of the market for quantum computer infrastructure and platforms as a service, and the growth of high-performance computing workloads suitable for quantum technology will be the main drivers of market growth, IDC said. “Over the next decade, quantum computers will continue to be the hype. Across the provider and service provider landscape, CIOs will face the challenge of those who promise but do not deliver enough quantum computer capabilities,” said Gartner analyst Chirag Dekate at the company’s latest symposium / Xpo 2021. “Quantum computing is not a general purpose technology and can currently only be applied to a select set of utilities: optimization problems, organic chemistry, materials science, biochemistry and security. Gartner predicts that this list will grow in the the next five to ten years. “

Quantum computing is at a turning point in terms of funding, research and experiments, Kompella said. “Cisco has played an extraordinary role in the development and construction of the digital infrastructure, and quantum computers are one of the technologies that have a fundamental element. Our program is looking for the next big thing with the goal of creating new product offerings for Cisco, “said Kompella.

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