Quantum Networking — A Cisco Strategy

Sam Samuel
Sam Samuel

Friday, January 1st, 2021

Quantum Communication

The Cisco Emerging Technologies & Incubation team is initiating a comprehensive program to support and investigate Quantum Compute and Communication Science & Technology. The team has identified a set of initial topics to be studied, in close collaboration with selected academic partners that have a similar interest and complementary expertise.

A focus on Quantum Communication

Quantum entanglement implies a strong correlation between the states of the individual components of a system regardless of their physical separation. This unique characteristic of quantum systems, not present in classical systems, enables an achievable advantage when processing information in the quantum state.

To scale quantum computers, the communication between them may become decisive. There are ways in which quantum communications can be more efficient than its classical counterpart. The benefits of quantum computation are potentially realized when that computation occurs in a distributed manner and hence requires a quantum network to join those computational elements together. This clearly places the prospect of quantum communication in Cisco’s wheelhouse.

A wide range of technical issues to solve

Long-distance quantum communication is raising a number of questions that are not yet answered. There are different modes of operations that a quantum network could have, each of them requiring quantum repeaters to guaranty end-to-end communication. All these modes come with their challenges in terms of communication rate, quantum memory management or cost of the network. This leads to the following set of problems to address:

  • Quantum Network End-to-End Transport Integrity

Getting quantum computers to scale meaningfully implies to join quantum computers together over a quantum network. How much information can be shared between the quantum computers and what computational advantage these machines can give, come down to how reliable that information exchange can be made. Quantum Network Model Understanding the reliability requirements for quantum transport will help design the way the final network gets architected. It may well be that components of the required technology will mature at different times and therefore, it is crucial to understand the models under which the quantum network will operate.

  • Engineering Approach to Quantum Networking

Once the quantum networking models are understood, the engineering approach to quantum networking can be developed, including the management and operations aspects of the final network. A potential radical difference between classical and quantum networks could be exploited if the control plane becomes much cheaper, thus the existing protocols that try to minimize the protocol exchange may need to be rethought. To progress on all these questions and identify how we can augment and compliment the current state of the art, Cisco is investigating where things really are in academia and industry.

In this context, the Cisco Research team is soliciting research ideas and proposals from Academia. For more information and to submit your ideas, please review our open Request for Proposal.