Quantum Computing and its impact on the IT Industry

Introduction to Quantum Computing

Quantum computing is a new way of processing information using the laws of quantum physics, which describe how tiny particles like atoms and photons behave. Where classical computers use “bits” that can either be in a state that represents a 0 or a 1, quantum computers use quantum particles as their bits (known as qubits). These qubits behave in ways that are not easily understandable to the non-scientist and it’s these strange behaviours that enable quantum computers to perform certain tasks faster than classical computers.  Qubits can be put in a superposition state (1) that encodes all possible input values (an exponential increase over the classic 0 or 1). Performing the computation on this initial state will result in superposition of all the corresponding output values. In the time it takes a traditional computer to compute the output for a single input state, a quantum computer can compute the results for all input states. This process is known as quantum parallelism (2) and is the reason why quantum computers can be exponentially faster than traditional computers.

As an analogy, think about the difference between a white torch (either on or off with a white light) and a television (millions of pixels, all of which can be lit with different colours).  If you were sending information, the white torch would be a series of On’s and Off’s probably using Morse Code to communicate.  The Television can send a whole understandable image at once.  That is the relative performance of qubits over bits.

There are some links at the bottom of the article to explore the principles in more depth if you wish to delve into the nature of matter, waves, particles and the equations of Einstein and others. In this article however we will explore the more practical questions of when Quantum Computing will become a mainstream reality, how will it be used and the implications for the IT industry and business and society in general.

What are the challenges of Quantum Computing?

Due to the increased number of quantum states over the traditional 0 and 1, quantum computers are prone to errors as it’s easy to mistake one state for another as the ranges of measurement involved are much smaller. The act of measuring or observing a result can actually change the quantum state too, increasing errors. Scientists have developed techniques to manage these errors and one of the most important is the temperature, today’s quantum computers need to be cooled very close to absolute zero (4) –273 degrees Celsius. At these low temperatures, molecules have less energy, and the system is therefore more stable with much less thermal noise. Most Quantum Computers are therefore run inside powerful refrigeration systems, even resorting to wireless communication as metal wires between the cold environment and outside World introduce unwanted heat.

The goal is to develop a room temperature Quantum computer, and these are under development although their current scale is very limited (5).

Quantum algorithms or programming languages are also very different from classical ones and require a lot of creativity and intuition to design and implement. It is not simply a case of porting existing programs into the quantum computer, making quantum computing skills availability another hurdle. Scientists have however proved that all problems solvable by a classic computer can be solved by a quantum computer, we just need to know how to program them.

Who are the players in Quantum computing?

The first proposals for a quantum computer came in the 1980s and the scientists along with significant investment by many of the leading IT companies and learning institutions have made rapid progress with significant advances being announced regularly.

The largest investor in Quantum Computing is thought to be IBM with the top players also including the companies one would expect Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Intel with the addition of D-Wave – a longstanding, dedicated Quantum Computing company that raised $300m in a 2022 floatation. (6)

What is the current state of Quantum Computing?

In addition to the temperature challenges mentioned above, the biggest challenge today is delivering a quantum computer with enough qubits to be truly useful. Until true scalability is achieved the applications of Quantum computing will be limited, although the machines we have today are still producing useful results. The exponential improvement in power over traditional computing, however, make quantum an area than cannot be ignored by the big technology players or industries where such an advance would disrupt their business models in a seismic way.
The largest quantum computer is the IBM Osprey containing 433 qubits with the 1121 qubit Condor scheduled for release in 2023. To put things in perspective, google built the 70 qubit Sycamore machine, claiming it could make a calculation in just over 6 seconds that would take the Frontier super-computer (the World’s fastest super-computer) over 47 years to solve.

What Industries are currently investing in Quantum Computing?

Quantum computing is of interest to any industry with large data sets to analyse or highly complex tasks to undertake. Quantum computes are especially good at modelling so areas like climate research, financial modelling and machine learning are clear targets.

An often-quoted example is material science, where current computing methods are not sophisticated enough to model and create new materials that could revolutionise the Manufacturing sector. For example, a Spider can make silk at body temperature, producing water as a by-product.  The steel cables we currently use in construction are five times heavier than silk for the same strength and come at a significant environmental cost. It is hoped that quantum computing will help us solve the riddle of spider silk and create other materials that could be game changers. A recent success story is the use of quantum computing to discover a new molecular candidate to make more efficient solar cells.(9)

The industry with the largest current investment in quantum computing must be the banking and finance industry which has been investing millions of dollars into the sector for nearly a decade. The focus comes from the fact that quantum computing creates a significant business opportunity to banks in assessing data to better quantify risk for lending, borrowing and investing. The flip side is the threat the technology presents in it’s potential to reverse engineer keys used by asymmetric cryptology which is the basis for many widely used encryption solutions (10,11).  Banks and governments are working hard to ensure that our security protocols are quantum safe.

Will Quantum computing replace traditional Computing?

Given the challenges in developing a highly scalable quantum computer and the potential errors from their probabilistic nature, it is likely that in the medium-term future at least, quantum computing will be blended with today’s High Performance Computing architectures combined with AI and the scale offered by the Public Cloud. Combining these 4 computing technologies offers the fastest way to deliver reliable, fault tolerant quantum computing at scale.

A recent announcement by Microsoft could be the breakthrough required to move to scalable quantum computing. They claim to have established the physics to create a new type of qubit from a combination of Majorana zero modes and quantum dots.(12) These topological qubits have properties which make them less error prone and more scalable then the physical qubits used by their business rivals. The technology is still between research papers and the lab but things are moving fast in this space and Microsoft is developing a whole raft of technologies alongside this development from programming languages to security to accelerate quantum computing into Azure as fast as they can.

What will it mean to the IT Channel?

Quantum Computing seems set to follow the same path as Public Cloud and AI. Initial uses of the technology will be costly and open only to the large enterprises with business cases large enough to justify the investment. In time though we should see the technology wrapped up in standardised offerings by the large IT Vendors / Public Cloud Providers to enable more modest sized businesses to access the same platforms. At that point, several years hence, the IT channel will be able to offer quantum computing solutions to their customers at an affordable cost.

If you draw an obvious comparison to the start of mainframe technologies, the first mainframe was arguably developed in the 1930’s, but didn’t hit mainstream until the 1970 and 1980’s and realistically did not have a broad appeal until Linux was developed for the platform in the 1990’s.  60 years to overcome the complexities (and physics!) of a new hardware architecture.  As is the case with most more recent technologies, and the investment from the major vendors in Quantum, we can see Quantum becoming mainstream a lot quicker – with some major analysts predicting broad adoption in the near to medium term – 2025 to 2030 (13)

Despite this delay, the prospect for quantum computing to deliver groundbreaking opportunities makes it one to keep an eye on, alongside AI which will be one of the solutions likely to be accelerated greatly when quantum computing finally comes of age.



  1. Quantum superposition – Wikipedia
  2. Quantum Parallelism – Where Quantum Computers Get Their Mojo From | Towards Data Science
  3. Quantum entanglement – Wikipedia
  4. Absolute zero | Definition & Facts | Britannica
  5. The Status of Room-Temperature Quantum Computers (eetimes.eu)
  6. Top 10 quantum computing companies globally in 2023 | AI Magazine
  7. Quantum computer built by Google can instantly execute a task that would normally take 47 years • Earth.com
  8. Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Frontier Supercomputer | HPE
  9. Researchers use commercial quantum computer t | EurekAlert!
  10. Quantum computers and cryptography: A battle for digital security | CIO
  11. Security in the quantum computing era | IBM
  12. In a historic milestone, Azure Quantum demonstrates formerly elusive physics needed to build scalable topological qubits – Source (microsoft.com)
  13. Quantum-Computing.pdf (mckinsey.com)