Fujitsu Digital Annealer’s quantum acceleration

Fujitsu's Digital Annealer Unit (Image: Fujitsu)

Second gen closes gap to quantum world

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8 March 2019 | 0

Fujitsu has said its second generation Digital Annealer has been enhanced with quantum acceleration and is ready to solve complex combinatorial optimisation problems.

The Digital Annealer is uses a digital circuit design inspired by quantum phenomena, resulting in a computational architecture that bridges the gap to the quantum world. Fujitsu says it paves the way for much faster, more efficient solving of business problems. The solution is designed to solve large-scale combinatorial optimisation problems which are unsolvable using today’s classical computers.

The maker says the Digital Annealer has the power to enable breakthroughs in areas such as optimising manufacturing processes, minimising traffic congestion and enabling financial services providers to align investment portfolios against ever-changing risk landscapes.

Powered by pioneering quantum-inspired technology, Fujitsu says the Digital Annealer delivers unprecedented disruptive new solutions including prioritising rollout locations for next-generation mobile networks to maximise customer uptake, drug discovery, and molecular simulations.

The power behind the Digital Annealer lies in Fujitsu’s Digital Annealing Unit (DAU). This is a processor that leverages innovations in ultra-high-density circuit integration and high-performance processing. The groundbreaking architecture is inspired, say the makers, by the key characteristics of quantum computing: superposition, quantum tunneling and entanglement, enabling the Digital Annealer to evaluate multiple potential options simultaneously – delivering lightning fast insights.

“Our ultimate aim,” said Dr Joseph Reger, Fujitsu fellow and chief technology officer CE and EMEIA, Fujitsu, “is to help customers and society as a whole to solve ever-larger and more complex challenges.”

“As Moore’s Law seems to slow down,” said Dr Reger, “here’s a compute deficit which is threatening to slow down the pace of progress. Fujitsu is addressing that with the Digital Annealer, which enables an entirely different approach to finding solutions, inspired by quantum computing’s simultaneous processing capabilities. The key difference to traditional computing is that the Digital Annealer can tackle complex combinatorial problems by comparing thousands of possible results at the same time, rather than in sequence.”

The Digital Annealer can be deployed as a cloud-hosted or on-premises service solution, as required. It integrates seamlessly into standard data centre operating environments, without the need for complex infrastructure required by regular quantum computers, said Fujitsu, which are energy-intensive and need expensive cooling systems running at near absolute-zero temperature.

The Digital Annealer processes information in the manner in which quantum computers are expected to operate in the future. It can take samples of very large data sets, extrapolate from them and apply complex operations simultaneously to reduce billions of possibilities down to usable answers in seconds.

Fujitsu gives an example of a business application is for a bank to optimise a delivery round of money to ATM cashpoint machines, prioritised by amount. The Fujitsu Digital Annealer can instantly work out which ATMs a particular driver should visit, calculate the optimal route to take, while simultaneously suggesting how much to deposit in each machine. The sheer number of permutations in such calculations would have meant that classical architectures and problem solving approaches would have meant months of processing time.

“With the availability of the second generation Digital Annealer,” said Dr Reger, “we are enabling customers to answer increasingly complex ‘what if?’ questions, by adding more variables and working at greater precision – to tackle problems that traditional computers simply cannot solve because of the exponential increase in the number of possible combinations. And unlike true quantum computing, which is still far from being commercially viable, since it is prohibitively expensive and requires cryogenic cooling, the benefits of the Digital Annealer are already available to organisations across all sectors today – whenever and however they want to disrupt, revolutionise, streamline, or simply optimise businesses processes.”

The Fujitsu Digital Annealer is available as-a-service on a subscription basis, including technical and consulting services, support and optional additional consultancy for solution development. It can be deployed as a cloud hosted or on-premises service. The second generation of Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer is available to customers for proof of concepts, with general availability scheduled for April 2019.

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