IBM Eagle 127-qubit quantum processor announced

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said Eagle represents a milestone, with power beyond the realms of traditional computers.

IBM Eagle

Ahead of its Quantum Summit, IBM has announced the world’s first 100-quibit plus processor and previewed the design of its next-gen Quantum System Two. In the world of computing the IBM Eagle 127-qubit processor is big news, by breaking that century barrier, and it takes quantum computers into uncharted-but-awesome territory.

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna took part in an interview with Ina Fried for Axois (see above), and shared some of his enthusiasm and insights about this quantum breakthrough. The key point that Mr Krishna returned to several times, is that the Eagle processor is so powerful it can solve problems no traditional computer can approach. However, that doesn’t mean there is going to be no place for classical computing – think of it as a horses for courses thing.

Some mind-boggling numbers and comparisons were put forward in trying to explain the computing power that can be derived from wielding the IBM Eagle 127-qubit quantum processor. In one such explanation, we heard that to simulate Eagle using a classical computer, you would need “more classical bits than there are atoms in every human being on the planet”. Another comparison made by the IBM CEO was that “it would take a normal computer bigger than this planet,” to compete with one based around the IBM Eagle.

Electronics Weekly had some insight into the IBM Eagle processor architecture. It explained that Eagle was created using an advanced 3D packaging technique and based upon the heavy-hexagonal qubit layout as debuted with IBM’s Falcon processor. Moreover, Eagle’s components are located on multiple physical levels, while the qubits are located on a single layer.

Access to an Eagle powered system in the cloud is planned for select members of the IBM Quantum Network, starting in December.

This is a major milestone but of course things don’t stand still, IBM plans to have a 433 qubit chip called Osprey ready next year, to be followed by a 1,121 qubit chip called Condor. We don’t know exactly when IBM will be confident enough to claim a practical quantum advantage for one of its processors / systems, but it should be “within the next couple of years,” according to a top exec.

I mentioned the IBM Quantum System Two in the intro. This modular system is scheduled to come online in 2023 and has been built with foresight in that it is designed to work with 1,000 qubit+ processors (likely with Condor in mind).