Quantum computing is an exciting new aspect of IT that offers many exciting career opportunities. There are several affected areas of expertise with the IT Architect discipline, and I thought I'd mention just a few in order to set the quantum computing landscape.
To begin exploring the exciting world of quantum computing, take a look at my article "An introduction to quantum computing architecture" here on Enable Architect.
The Enterprise Architect is where the bold plans should start. Of course, the bigger picture is driven by business requirements and fueled by the ever-changing market. Your Enterprise Architect should present plans for areas where quantum computing brings a competitive edge to the business. For instance, the healthcare industry is all over quantum computers because of their ability to do what classic computers cannot.
The Application Architect will have a more in-depth challenge since the details need to be uncovered. How will the quantum computer interact with the legacy systems? Where will the quantum computer sit in the flow, and how will the flow react to binary questions receiving "non-binary" answers? Perhaps that is an incorrect way of visualizing the problem—after all, it is not the answer that is non-binary but rather the process of obtaining the solutions. Either way, I think this adds some really interesting flavor to the process, don't you?
Next, there is the quantum application and how to develop it. Perhaps you don't have to learn the mathematics and programming of quantum computers to get a competitive edge, but I bet that those who do will have a definite advantage. Then there is the argument that your advantage is all about the data you own and the questions you ask. So perhaps it will be enough to use the applications available from your Quantum Computing as a Service (QCaaS) provider. The Application Architect will be the one to provide the answers here.
Is the competitive edge in the actual programming, or is it in asking the right questions and "just" providing the data for the quantum computer to work with? What I have been reading has made me consider the power of asking the right question, especially if you consider a quantum computer with AI capabilities. Currently, computers only do what we tell them to do. AI is seriously hampered by the lack of processing power in classic computers, so it is only reasonable to assume that a quantum computer will overcome that obstacle and open an endless space for humankind to ask the "right" questions. In case we have not considered ALL the possible consequences of our question, we may find that it is interpreted in a way we failed to anticipate. Can an AI Architect design enough safety measures to protect us from our own inability to foresee the future?
The challenge becomes even more granular for the Data Architect since the two environments—quantum and classic—will relate to data in very different ways. Where the classic computer has the approach of a Sith Lord and deals in absolutes, the quantum computer is more of a Jedi that can feel the flow and use the Force to find the answer. Again, how to have the classic data interact with the quantum data is a dilemma that makes my mind spin. The same data will be processed completely differently in these two realms, which means the output needs to be managed very carefully.
Quantum computers can process huge amounts of information. At the same time, they can try out multiple solutions, so the question then becomes how to provide all this data to the quantum computer. Even with fast disks, it is the equivalent of having a supercomputer accessing a 1.44 floppy disk. I would expect some major rethinking of data store and access times. And this is before we consider data security and integrity. Most likely, the necessary tech just hasn't been invented yet.
The Cloud Architect faces the dilemma of how to get information to and from the quantum computer. Everything costs in the cloud, and that includes transporting data. Depending on what type of operations the quantum computer performs, it might need huge amounts of data to explore all possible solutions. To feed all this data across the cloud might become expensive, but perhaps the business benefit will significantly outweigh the costs.
On the other hand, I'd expect that cloud would take on a new dimension if we employed quantum computers orbiting the earth. Successful experiments have already been undertaken in space; however, even if there is plenty of vacuum and an abundance of coldness, there is still the challenge of interference—but no doubt we will soon see that sorted. So I think being a Cloud Architect gives you the potential to develop your role in a very interesting direction!
The challenge of the Security Architect is not to be underestimated. If you invite a shark for dinner, don't be surprised if it consumes a lot more than what's on the table. I am alluding to the fact that, since most companies will go for QCaaS, this might open a two-way street between the provider and the customers. Today's encryption and security protocols have brought forth some scaremongers claiming that it will be a walk in the park for quantum computers to break any and all security available in a matter of seconds. Yet others argue that we do have sufficient security already and that there is no cause for concern. I guess only time will tell.
Only a few companies have taken real actions regarding data protection with specific regard to quantum computers. There are several initiatives working on improving the encryption algorithms to a degree that even a quantum computer of rank could not break. You can search for "post-quantum cryptography," and you'll find plenty of opinions and facts on the internet—just don't get the two mixed up. Having studied some basic security, I learned that "all it takes is time" and that the quantum computers of the near future will be so powerful that they can literally bend time. I wonder what will happen then?
The Network Architect is the ninja of them all. "Think quick, act quicker" is the neighborhood tagline. Since quantum computers can use the fiber optics we have today for communication, there is also a need to review the configuration items in the network as well as the monitoring tools. Looking at TCP/IP network transfer is one thing, but how do you monitor individual photons zooming across the lines? Some new components have to be introduced for all this to work, one of them being "quantum repeaters"—tech that will be unbelievably busy. Having said that, much of the network technology will be standard.
Having quantum computers that compare data or work with "data lakes" can put some serious pressure on the network. Considering the speed at which quantum computers work, the need for some serious data transfer is not just on the horizon but kicking the front door down!
With the capacity to access and plow through huge amounts of data and provide multiple answers in a veritable vortex of processing, the network lines benefit from being as clean as possible—meaning not a lot of other traffic or disturbances. The photons transmitted between quantum computers need to have their information "repeated" after a certain distance. Managing and feeding all the control information to the consoles that the network technicians work with will be a huge challenge. How can you monitor the progress of something that is already done before it started?
Every role in the data center will change with the shift to quantum computing. IT Architects of all kinds have an opportunity to reimagine their work and its constraints. Be part of that future by keeping an eye on the latest quantum computing research and considering how it will change your role.