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Instant Communication to Impact Data Center Design?

By: Blair Felter on July 10, 2014

Quantum teleportation. Albert Einstein called it 'spooky action at a distance,” and argued it put the lie to quantum mechanics on the whole. Now, a team of Dutch researchers has discovered a reliable way to instantly teleport information — is this the dawn of a new era in communications?

All Tangled Up

As reported by the New York Times, physicists from the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at the Delft University of Technology are now able to instantly teleport information between two quantum bits — also known as qubits — at a distance of ten feet. What's more, they're able to do it 100 percent of the time. Previous attempts had limited success, along the lines of 1 in 100 million, but by using electrons trapped in diamonds and cooled to extremely low temperatures, the Delft team was able to accurately read qubit states and confirm each information transfer was a success.

This process relies on quantum entanglement, the idea that particles can become interconnected or 'entangled'. As a result, a change of state in one particle instantly affects the other, no matter the distance; the Dutch team's next effort is to replicate their experiment over a kilometer-wide gap. If successful, they'll have definitively proven a central tenant of quantum mechanics.

High-velocity Data

While this is big news for physicists, faster-than-light (FTL) data transfer also has serious implications for technology. Quantum computing is a high-profile topic, with machines like the Google-backed D-wave two undergoing tests to determine if it's the real deal or just another desktop.

The Delft University results, however, are clear: It's possible to transcend binary limitations and send information as a 1, 0, both, or neither. Scaled up from single electron transfer to whole systems, this technology could revolutionize the way data is transmitted. Time would cease to be a factor, as would bandwidth. There are also implications for privacy, since without knowledge of both entangled particles it would be impossible to determine what kind of communication or calculation was taking place.

Ideal State

Even at small scale, quantum teleportation demands very specific conditions: Low temperatures, trapped electrons and precise measurements. At the computer or server level, these requirements will be even more exacting — ideal performance will depend on the ideal state. But what does this mean for data center design?

Consider the colocated data center. Companies use their own hardware, but also enjoy benefit of exacting environmental controls and round-the-clock service. Quantum computing and similar technologies put even greater strain on hardware, and as result data center design must evolve to meet more stringent power, cooling, and network requirements. In other words, finding the ideal data center environment may be the difference between computing in the new world and getting stuck in the stone age.

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