Saturday, September 5, 2015

Intel joins search for quantum computing

ExtremeTech reports:
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich released an open letter today, pledging to dedicate $50 million to long-term research of quantum computing. The CPU giant is partnering with TU Delft, the largest and oldest Dutch public technical university, and will work with QuTech, TU Delft’s quantum research institute. Intel is also pledging to dedicate its own resources and engineers to solving the problems of quantum computing.

It might seem odd to see Intel pumping so much money into quantum computing research, given that D-Wave’s systems have been tested and largely verified to be quantum computers.
Maybe you should sell Intel stock.

In case you think Intel is always right to such technical matters, remember the Intel Itanium. For about 5 years, HP and Intel convinced the world that they had a superior computer processor architecture. Rivals were dropping out of the business because everyone was so sure that Intel's chip would dominate the market. The chip was a spectacular failure.

Someday this quantum computing research will be seen as seriously misguided. Intel will never sell a quantum computer processor.

Update: I never saw a good explanation as to why the Intel Itanium was such a failure. They certainly spent enuf billions of dollars on development, and made chips that worked as designed. But the main advantage was supposedly that long complex instruction sets were superior to reduced (and simplified) instruction sets that were popular. Intel's simulations showed huge performance advantages, but apparently they never took into account all the extra time to load those long instructions from memory. It is hard to see how so many smart people could have bet so much money on something so foolish.

John Dvorak wrote in 2009:
This continues to be one of the great fiascos of the last 50 years, and not because Intel blew too much money on its development or that the chip performed poorly and will never be widely adopted. It was the reaction and subsequent consolidation in the industry that took place once this grandiose chip was preannounced.

I witnessed this in real time, in person, and I've never seen anything like it before or since.

In 1997 Intel was the king of the hill; in that year it first announced the Itanium or IA-64 processor. That same year, research company IDC predicted that the Itanium would take over the world, racking up $38 billion in sales in 2001. Wow! Everybody paid attention. ...

The problem was that Intel wasn't the only company drinking the Kool-Aid. The entire industry took this project so seriously that the press was inundated by both a massive roll-out campaign and a press kit that had releases from all the strategic partners—which was practically everyone in the Valley…and beyond.

What we heard was that HP, IBM, Dell, and even Sun Microsystems would use these chips and discontinue anything else they were developing. This included Sun making noise about dropping the SPARC chip for this thing—sight unseen. I say "sight unseen" because it would be years before the chip was even prototyped. The entire industry just took Intel at its word that Itanium would work as advertised in a PowerPoint presentation.

Because this chip was supposed to radically change the way computers work and become the driving force behind all systems in the future, one promising project after another was dropped. The MIPS chip, the DEC Alpha (perhaps the fastest chip of its era), and anything else in the pipeline were all cancelled or deemphasized. Why? Because Itanium was the future for all computing. Why bother wasting money on good ideas that didn't include it?

The failure of this chip to do anything more than exist as a niche processor sealed the fate of Intel — and perhaps the entire industry, since from 1997 to 2001 everyone waited for the messiah of chips to take us all to the next level.

It did that all right. It took us to the next level. But we didn't know that the next level was below us, not above. The next level was the basement, in fact. Hopefully Intel won't come up with any more bright ideas like the Itanium. We can't afford to excavate another level down.
It is going to be the same thing with quantum computers. Everyone is going to wonder how so many smart people with convinced by a slide show, when no one had any real results to show.


  1. Forget the Itanium and imagine how retarded Intel was when it missed the mobile market, worth billions. I had PDAs long before the smartphone craze. I had a Compaq Aero with a 70-MHz NEC MIPS-based RISC chip and then a Toshiba PocketPC with an Intel 400MHz PXA255 XScale (ARM) chip many years ago. Intel had mobile chips long before the smartphone craze but they didn't seem to get it.

    Furthermore, small startups like Crossbar are running ahead of the giants in memory technology. One can argue about what's a true memristor but they have proven designs that get around NAND's lithography issues and can scale down to 4-5nm with 3D stacking.

    Companies like IBM are just bloated wrecks:

  2. Hilbert Space is physically real (parallel universes)? Yeah, right

    Someone should write a book on why quantum computers cannot work.

    Same goes for fusion device (instabilities can be controlled? yeah right)

    1. You know the difference between your head and your ass, Yeah right