Toshiba’s ‘quantum-inspired computer’ is out of the cloud, on desktops

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Toshiba has a certain type of ‘quantum computers’ in the clouds and they decided to bring them out and put them in Japanese desktops. They are going by the fancy name “simulated bifurcation machines” and use “quantum-inspired algorithms”. They run on a field-programmable gate array (FPGA), inside what seems like a regular x86 desktop workstation.

Bifurcation is a technique used on Ising models (a math model of ferromagnetism) and machines applying these methods come with certain advantages. The advantages include being particularly good at considering multiple variables, their interactions, and giving optimization recommendations. Toshiba has been offering Simulated Bifurcation Machines in the cloud for about two years now.

The first version landed in the AWS Marketplace. By last year, they were in Microsoft’s Azure Quantum service. During the launch, Microsoft said that the technique used enabled them to quickly get highly accurate solutions for large-scale combinatorial optimization problems and showed it was about 10 times better than competing devices. Some of the optimization problems it solved included risk management, dynamic portfolio management, and high-frequency trading.  

The machine

Toshiba describes the offering as having eight FPGAs and posted this video of what appears to be an Intel PCle card packed in with the FPGAs.

At the moment, Simulated Bifurcation Machines are only offered as trials in Japan, which is why it may be hard to get your hands on one of these if you do not live in Japan. However, if you would like some indication of how this works, the AWS offering is still there.

Toshiba doesn’t charge you to test it. However, AWS will charge you $3.06 per hour of operation in its EC2 IaaS service.