Organizations that use the power of quantum computing could help humanity solve some of the world's biggest problems and make breakthroughs in critical areas, from drug research to global agricultural and beyond.
But how close are we to a future where quantum computing is mainstream, and how can data centers prepare for that future? Many of quantum computing's uses are either experimental or hypothetical at the moment, as we're still in the early stages of learning how to implement quantum computing on a mass scale, but as the technology develops, organizations should not ignore how they can use it.
Potential uses for quantum computing
Classical computing processes data in a binary space, which limits the volume of data it can handle and the decisions it can produce. This is also known as serial processing. Quantum computing, however, uses multidimensional processing.
Serial processing checks every combination of that data one at a time to arrive at the correct result. Multidimensional processing is layered, unlike the binary approach of serial processing that uses bits. This accelerates the delivery and accuracy of computations and enhances the diversity of the results. In short, quantum computing can deliver better quality results faster.
Here are several practical applications of quantum computing we could see in the future:
- AI and machine learning (ML). The capability of calculating solutions to problems simultaneously, as opposed to sequentially, has huge potential for AI and ML. Organizations today use AI and ML to discover ways to automate and optimize tasks. When used in combination with quantum computing, optimization can happen much faster and at scale, especially when processing and analyzing highly complex or even unstructured big data sets.
- Financial modeling. With the modeling capabilities of quantum computing, financial organizations could use the technology to better model the behavior of investments and securities at scale. This could help reduce risk, optimize large-scale portfolios and help financial organizations better understand the trends and movements of the global financial economy.
- Cybersecurity. Quantum computing could have a direct impact on privacy and encryption. Given the rapidly evolving nature of the cybersecurity landscape, quantum computers could help keep data encrypted while in use, providing both in-transit and at-rest protections.
- Route and traffic optimization. Optimal route planning is key to smooth supply chain logistics and transportation. The biggest challenge is harnessing all the real-time data -- from changing weather patterns to traffic flow -- that affects this planning. This is where quantum computers can excel. They could process all that data in real time and adjust routes for an entire fleet of vehicles at once, putting each on the optimal path forward.
- Manufacturing. Quantum computers can run more accurate and realistic prototyping and testing. In the manufacturing space, this could help reduce the cost of prototyping and result in better designs that don't need as much testing.
- Drug and chemical research. Quantum computers can create better models for how atoms interact with one another, leading to a superior and more precise understanding of molecular structure. This may directly impact drug and chemical research and impact the way new products and medicines are developed. The predictive power of quantum computers could also provide foresight into how chemical compounds and drugs would develop, evolve and interact with other elements over time.
- Batteries. Quantum computing could help manufacturers better understand how to incorporate new materials into products such as batteries and semiconductors. This could provide more insight into how to optimize batteries for longevity and efficiency. Quantum computing can also help manufacturers gain a better understanding of lithium compounds and battery chemistry. For example, quantum computing could tap into and understand how the docking energy of proteins works, which results in better batteries for electric vehicles.
How data centers can adapt as quantum computing becomes mainstream
It will take time before organizations can apply quantum computing in their operations on a wider scale -- anywhere from five to 10 years at the earliest -- but it's never a bad idea to keep an eye on trends and advancements in the space as the tech develops. Data center admins should already track disruptive trends to stay one step ahead of the curve, but this goes doubly for quantum computing. Watch the thought leaders in the space, and take note of risks and opportunities.
Data centers and administrators can also partner with quantum computing players or recruit quantum computing talent to prepare. The latter is especially worthwhile right now, as even a few quantum experts can help organizations explore potential uses. They can also track industry developments and identify opportunities where quantum computing can be beneficial.
Finally, when it comes to tech, data centers should focus on further digital transformation. Continue building out digital infrastructure and scaling data sets with an eye toward eventually transitioning to or adopting quantum computing workflows in some capacity. When it's feasible to invest in the hardware and expertise needed, organizations can then get quantum computing up and running sooner rather than later.
A future built on quantum computing is a promising one, in which we can solve some of humanity's greatest problems faster, more efficiently, more accurately and at a greater scale. When we get to that future is the real question as we work to enhance and scale our current quantum capabilities.