What is Azure Quantum?

Azure Quantum is a cloud service with a diverse set of quantum solutions and technologies. You can write your code once and run it with little to no change against multiple targets of the same family and allows you to focus your programming at the algorithm level.

  • An open ecosystem, enabling you to access diverse quantum software, hardware, and solutions from Microsoft and its partners.
  • Quantum impact today, with pre-built solutions that run on classical and accelerated compute resources (also referred to as optimization solutions).

Tip

Free trial. If you don’t have an Azure subscription, you can create a free account before you begin. Microsoft offers up to $10,000 USD in credits for use on quantum hardware. After the credits are used up, you can keep the account and use free Azure services. Your credit card is never charged unless you explicitly change your settings and ask to be charged. You can apply to the Azure Quantum Credits program.

The parts of Azure Quantum

Azure Quantum offers you two main paths of quantum solutions:

  • Quantum Computing: Learn, experiment and prototype with a variety of quantum hardware providers to help you get ready for the future of scaled quantum machines. Unlike other solutions, you are not siloed to a single hardware technology, and you benefit from a full stack approach protecting your long-term investments.
  • Optimization: Develop solutions that help you reduce the cost of operation in a broad range of fields such as finance, energy cost, fleet management, scheduling, and more.

With Azure Quantum and the Quantum Development Kit toolset, you will be able to program your quantum algorithms and optimization solutions, then apply those quantum solutions within the existing Azure platform to achieve real-world impacts even before the development of a general-purpose quantum computer.

Who is Azure Quantum for?

Azure Quantum is for individuals and teams who want to take a step forward and bring quantum computation into production.

Industry solutions

For businesses, incorporating quantum type solutions can help to be more competitive and be at the forefront of innovation. To build industry solutions, Azure Quantum is the best path to apply the latest optimization technologies, as you seek long term cost-saving solutions. Azure Quantum offers the advantages of the most diverse quantum resources available today with applications for a wide range of industries.

To learn more about how real-life problems can be solved using Azure Quantum and quantum applications, see the following case studies.

Developers

As a developer, you will use familiar programming tools to create quantum applications, such as Python or Visual Studio Code, and at the same time you will learn to use and write your quantum code in Q#, a quantum-focused programming language. With Azure Quantum and the Quantum Development Kit, developers can explore quantum programming and learn more about quantum applications, such as data search, quantum machine learning, or optimization solutions.

Researchers

As a researcher, Azure Quantum can help you test your quantum algorithms and theories, to efficiently simulate quantum systems such as superconductivity, and complex molecular formations. Azure Quantum enables you to learn, build, and deploy impactful solutions at scale, helping you harness quantum computing and benefit from the latest innovations.

To learn more about research resources and career opportunities, see the Microsoft Quantum Computing research area. Also, Azure Quantum is a great tool for teaching quantum computing and quantum application. You can apply to the Azure Quantum Credits program.

Quantum enthusiasts

If you are a student or quantum enthusiast, Azure Quantum will make your interest in quantum computing evolve. You will broaden your learnings through the access to the most diverse set of quantum technologies, you will learn the basics of quantum computing and the quantum programming language Q#, and discover the areas where quantum computers have the potential to make a big impact.

Why use quantum computing

Quantum computers harness the unique behavior of quantum physics—such as superposition, entanglement, and quantum interference—and apply it to computing. This introduces new concepts to traditional programming methods. Quantum effects empower quantum computers for calculating exponentially more information and solve more complicated problems. When designed to scale, quantum computers will have capabilities that exceed today's most powerful supercomputers.

With Azure Quantum, you can make use of the advantages of quantum computing today, in a full-stack open cloud ecosystem with access to software, hardware, and pre-built solutions. Azure Quantum offers two types of solutions: quantum computing and optimization.

Quantum computing

If you aim to simulate quantum mechanical problems, such as chemical reactions, biological reactions, or material formations, quantum computers work exceptionally well because they use quantum phenomena in their computation. Quantum computers can also aid to speed up progress in diverse areas such as financial services, machine learning, and unstructured data searches, where lots of calculations are needed.

With Azure Quantum, researchers and businesses can use quantum computing to model complex scenarios in risk management, cybersecurity, network analysis, data search, vaccine development, or materials science. To learn more about how you can use quantum computing and quantum algorithms, see Understanding Quantum Computing.

Optimization

Optimization is the process of finding the best solution to a problem given its desired outcome and constraints. Complex optimization problems exist across every industry: vehicle routing, supply chain management, scheduling, portfolio optimization, power grid management, and many others. Solving these real-world problems results in high-value benefits, such as reduced costs, accelerated processes, or reduced risks.

In Azure Quantum, you can already implement optimization problems to run on various classical computing silicon solutions, such as CPU, FPGA, GPU, or custom silicon, faster than many other classical optimization techniques.

On the other hand, simulating the quantum effects on classical computers has led to the development of new types of quantum solutions. Quantum-Inspired Optimization algorithms exploit some of the advantages of quantum computing on classical hardware, providing a speedup over traditional approaches.

Azure Quantum gives you access to a broad set of state-of-the-art quantum-inspired optimization algorithms developed by Microsoft and its partners.

To learn more about the optimization solutions in Azure Quantum, see What is optimization?.

What are Q# and the Quantum Development Kit?

The Microsoft Quantum Development Kit (QDK) is an open-source development kit for Azure Quantum, that enables you to work both online with the service and offline. The QDK includes the quantum programming language Q#, a high-level programming language that allows you to focus your work at the algorithm and application level to create quantum programs.

The Quantum Development Kit

The QDK offers a set of tools that will assist you in the quantum software development process:

  • Ready-to-use libraries to help you keep your code high-level, including both “standard” libraries that implement patterns common for a lot of quantum algorithms, and domain-specific libraries, such as chemistry and machine learning.
  • Quantum computing simulators, so that you can run a small instance of your program and see what it does without actual hardware access.
  • Noise simulators that allow for simulating the behavior of Q# programs under the influence of noise and the stabilizer representation.
  • A resource estimator that provides real world costs to run your solutions, for example, how many qubits you need and how long your program will take.

The Quantum Development Kit includes extensions for Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code, and integration with Jupyter Notebooks.

The Quantum Development Kit supports interoperability with Python and other .NET languages. You can also formulate optimization solutions with the Azure Quantum optimization Python package. As quantum systems evolve, your code endures.

As an additional feature, the QDK supports integration with Qiskit and Cirq, so quantum developers that are already working in other development languages, can also run their programs on Azure Quantum.

The quantum programming language Q#

Why a quantum programming language? In short terms, because you want to write algorithms, not circuits.

The Q# language allows the integration on classical and quantum computing. Q# supports general classical control flow during the execution of an algorithm. This allows clean expression of adaptive algorithms that are difficult to express directly in the circuit model of a fixed sequence of quantum gates.

The Q# language doesn’t specify whether qubits are logical or physical. This can be decided by the runtime when the algorithm is executed. Similarly, the mapping from a qubit variable in a program to an actual logical or physical qubit is decided by the runtime, and that mapping may be deferred until after the topology and other details of the target device is known. The runtime is responsible for determining a mapping that allows the algorithm to execute, including any qubit state transfer and remapping required during execution.

You can use Q# as standalone, in notebooks, and at the command-line or use a host language such as Python or C#.

Workflow of the quantum software development

The Quantum Development Kit is the development kit for the quantum-focused programming language Q#, and Azure Quantum is the quantum cloud platform.

The following diagram shows the stages through which a quantum program goes from idea to complete implementation on Azure Quantum, and the tools offered by the QDK for each stage.

qdk workflow

  1. Write your quantum code. You can create your Q# program using the QDK extensions for Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code or Jupyter Notebooks.

  2. Use libraries to keep your code high level. The quantum libraries will help you keep your code high-level, doing a lot of the heavy lifting in implementation for you so that you can focus on the logic of your algorithms.

  3. Integrate with classical software. The Quantum Development Kit allows you to integrate Q# programs with Python and .NET, enabling a quantum software developer to take advantage of a lot of the advances made in classical computing in the past 70 years.

  4. Run your quantum code in simulation. Once you’ve written your program, you’ll want to use quantum simulators – classical programs that simulate the behavior of a quantum system, so that you can run a small instance of your program and see what it does without actual hardware access.

  5. Estimate resources. Before running on quantum hardware, you’ll need to figure out whether your program can run on existing hardware. You can use QDK resource estimators to tell you how many qubits you need and how long your program will take.

  6. Run your code on quantum hardware. Finally, the last step is using Azure Quantum to run your program on quantum hardware!

Note

You use the same Q# code for all steps of the workflow. In the short term you might have to tweak some portions of the code to account for the current hardware limitations. But in the long run you’ll be able to switch between various simulators and hardware providers without any code modifications.

Quantum cloud solutions available on Azure Quantum

Once you’ve validated the correctness of your program and estimated that it is fit to run on the hardware you have access to, you are ready to submit your program to Azure Quantum. The following diagram shows the basic workflow after you submit your job:

azure quantum job flow

Azure Quantum offers some of the most compelling and diverse quantum resources available today from industry leaders. Azure Quantum currently partners with the following providers to enable you to run your Q# quantum programs on real hardware, and the option to test your code on simulated quantum computers.

Quantum computing providers

Choose the provider that best suits the characteristics of your problem and your needs.

  • Honeywell Quantum Solutions: Trapped-ion system with high-fidelity, fully connected qubits, and the ability to perform mid-circuit measurements.
  • IONQ: Dynamically reconfigurable trapped-ion quantum computer for up to 11 fully connected qubits, that lets you run a two-qubit gate between any pair.
  • Quantum Circuits, Inc: Fast and high-fidelity system with powerful real-time feedback to enable error correction.

For more information, see the full Quantum computing target list.

Optimization providers

For optimization solutions, these are the available providers you can choose from:

  • 1QBit: Iterative heuristic algorithms that use search techniques to solve QUBO problems.
  • Microsoft QIO: A set of multiple targets that rephrase the optimization problem inspired by decades of quantum research.
  • Toshiba SBM: Toshiba Simulated Bifurcation Machine is a GPU-powered ISING machine that solves large-scale combinatorial optimization problems at high speed.

For more information, see the full Optimization target list.

Next steps

Start using Azure Quantum: