Today, quantum computing is a mysterious type of emerging technology that inspires us to ask these questions: What is quantum computing in the first place? How will it affect what SAP does in the coming years? And how will these combined factors influence future decisions for ASUG members?
Let’s start with the basics first to demystify what we mean by quantum computing.
Quantum Computing 101: Bits Versus Qubits
In comparison to binary computing, quantum computing is a light-year leap. Where binary machines use bits (binary digits), quantum machines run on data in the shape of qubits (quantum bits).
We know that a bit only can have one of two values, 0 or 1. But in quantum computing, a qubit’s value (referred to as its quantum state) can be made up of two or more values simultaneously. Adding even more complexity (quantum engineers would prefer you say power), a qubit’s value is also differentiated depending on the direction from which it is viewed.
Where binary bits have a defined position in the database, quantum qubits have what we call a superposition. The superposition or quantum state of any given qubit is highly complex, and that complexity creates fragility. Errors can easily arise, but are difficult to measure.
So back to our original question: How will quantum computing affect what SAP does in the coming years? And when will ASUG Members need to start paying attention to this advance?
The Quantum Chill Factor
SAP, like every other heavyweight IT vendor out there, is positioned for quantum when it comes. Key manufacturers in the quantum space including D-Wave Systems and SAP partner IBM have already made a significant investment in delivering machine innovations as this space continues to evolve. But the nod to the “when” factor is because quantum computing is still very much in development.
Quantum machines run at such massive speeds that they must be kept extremely cold. The microprocessor cores of quantum computers must be kept at -460 F in order not to overheat. The coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth was -128.6 F in Antarctica. So, you could say that this planet is not cold enough for quantum computing in its natural state.
While SAP and ASUG Members wait for the quantum specialists to perfect the art of the quantum machine build, we can make a few fairly confident predictions about the impact of quantum when it comes.
Prediction 1: You probably won’t be buying your own quantum machine unless you’re also thinking about investing in a space-age nanofridge. It’s far more likely ASUG Members and SAP will buy cloud-based computing services running on a quantum back end held in a quantum data center. Some early prototypes of this format already exist.
Prediction 2: Security is a key area of opportunity because quantum machines can avoid the “brute forcing” of mathematical problems to crack cryptographic codes.
“Quantum entanglement is the basis for generating an alert to physical intrusion or eavesdropping on communication channels involving entangled photons,” said Bindu Madhavan, vice president of systems engineering and head of the Explore for SAP Innovation Center Network in Palo Alto. “Based on what we know today, there’s no way for anyone to beat this fundamental mechanism that would prevent communicating parties from being alerted to intruders.”
Naysayers argue that if the same power gets into the hands of the hackers, then we won’t have moved forward too far. But generally, the industry agrees that quantum cybersecurity is a good thing.
Blockchain, Infinity, and Beyond
ASUG Members might start thinking about the areas of their business that could experience the effects of quantum computing over the next five years. Quantum power will likely change most aspects of computing over the next decade and beyond. Research and development could benefit from quantum power, and technologies like blockchain could become industry standards if we engineer intelligently and take careful steps forward.
“Now is the time for companies to begin exploring quantum technology with their partners and other experts,” Madhavan said. “For example, SAP customers want to solve increasingly complex problems and generate results faster. We’re benchmarking classical versus quantum computers, while looking at solving targeted business problems in areas like logistics, supply chain, and warehouse management. While preliminary results haven’t generated major outcomes, it’s the ideal time frame to collaborate on potential use cases, laying the groundwork for important future business opportunities.”
It’s 2019 and SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference is just around the corner. There won’t be a quantum developer workshop this year. But who knows, that might just change after 2020.