Microsoft previews quantum computing development kit

Q# (Q Sharp) is a high-level programming language.

George Nott Dec 13th 2017

Microsoft has today released a preview of its Quantum Development Kit, to “empower developers in the quantum revolution”.

The kit has three components: a quantum programming language Q#, local and Azure hosted quantum simulators and a GitHub library of quantum focused code.

Q# (Q Sharp) is a high-level programming language with a native type system for qubits, operators, and other abstractions, and is fully integrated with Visual Studio.

To enable developers to test quantum algorithms and solutions written in Q#, Microsoft has included a local simulator in the kit available from within Visual Studio. The local simulator, which runs on the users development system, enables full debugging support, including setting breakpoints, and stepping into code. 

Microsoft has also developed a scalable cloud-based simulator that supports simulations requiring more than 40 qubits. The kit includes a trace simulator to help developers optimise code to run on a quantum computer and estimate the cost of required resources.

“Ultimately the quantum computer will allow us to go far beyond 40 qubits. We'll be able to study complex molecules that today require longer than the lifetime of the universe to study on our best supercomputers. And it will take just a matter of hours or days with a quantum computer. Our quantum development kit enables you to write programmes for these large calculations today,” said Krysta Svore, principal researcher Microsoft quantum computing in an introductory video.

The kit also includes libraries of Q# sample code, building blocks and tutorials authored “by the industry’s brightest quantum minds”.

Microsoft is engaged in a global race to build a functional quantum computer, and is pursuing a topological approach to forming quantum bits – qubits – using quasiparticles called non-abellian anyons.

Speaking to Computerworld in April, Professor David Reilly, who was appointed last year to lead the Australian branch of Microsoft's Station Q global network of labs, said the company had “reached a point where we can move from mathematical modelling and theory to applied engineering for significant scale-up”.

The company is bullish on its effort to build a useable quantum computer; earlier this year announcing a multi-year, multi-million dollar partnership with the University of Sydney as part of an ongoing global ramp-up of research.

Svore added that the kit “forms part of our differentiated approach to delivering a scalable end to end quantum system”.

In May last year, IBM – which is pursuing a superconducting circuits approach to building a quantum computer – provided researchers access via the cloud to its five-qubit machine.

In March this year, in response to the fact “quantum computing can be difficult for the computer scientists and software engineers to appreciate” IBM made available a quantum API and SDK. It too has a quantum programming language QASM for direct construction of quantum computing routines.

The company has said its commercial 'Q' quantum computing program would deliver paid quantum computing services via the cloud to users before the end of the year.