After guiding Quantinuum through two years of post-merger challenges as its CEO, Dr. Ilyas Khan is moving up to the position of vice chairman. It’s a big plus for Quantinuum that he will continue to leverage his passion and experience for product development by also serving as Quantinuum’s first chief product officer.
Paired with this move, Quantinuum appointed Dr. Rajeeb (Raj) Hazra as its new CEO. Dr. Hazra holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the College of William and Mary in Virginia and a B.S. in computer science from Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India. He has held various executive technical positions in supercomputing and quantum computing over the past three decades and has been awarded 16 patents. Overall, Dr. Hazra’s broad experience and technical expertise make him well-suited for his new role.
From Intel to Micron to Quantinuum
Dr. Hazra held various leadership positions at Micron Technology before joining Quantinuum. Most recently, he was senior vice president and general manager of the Compute and Networking business unit. Before that, he served as Micron’s senior vice president for corporate strategy and communications. Prior to Micron, Dr. Hazra spent 25 years at Intel Corporation, where he led a large organization consisting of the Enterprise and Government group, the Technical Computing group, Supercomputer Architecture and Planning, and Systems Technology Research.
During his time at Intel, Dr. Hazra worked closely with the CEO and staff to create a roadmap that outlined essential initiatives needed to align Intel’s product portfolio with an evolving hybrid, multi-cloud infrastructure. The roadmap also incorporated AI and machine learning, all of which helped create new products and partnerships that revitalized Intel’s growth after a prolonged period of decline. As a result of its new roadmap, Intel introduced its first enterprise private cloud product and began offering infrastructure-as-a-service. Even today, Intel is still evolving and expanding along the strategic track developed by Dr. Hazra.
A conversation with the new CEO
Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Insights & Strategy, and I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Hazra shortly after Quantinuum’s announcement. The new CEO told us there were three main reasons he was excited about his opportunity to join the company.
First, he explained how much he admires the advanced research being done at Quantinuum, both on its H-series trapped-ion hardware and on quantum software. He elaborated on this by praising the company’s no-hype policy about products and technology. “There’s a lot of hype in quantum,” he said. “And it takes a lot of self-discipline, as well as incredible smarts and ingenuity, to solve the right problems in the right ways.”
This policy has been championed by Tony Uttley, COO and president of Quantinuum, who has been at the forefront of the company’s hardware development since before the merger between Honeywell Quantum Solutions and Cambridge Quantum merger two years ago. Uttley has consistently emphasized the importance of providing verified or published research to substantiate any claims the company makes. It has been his policy even before the merger to avoid making technical announcements without providing evidence to support them.
When Moorhead asked for Dr. Hazra’s second reason for excitement, he said that he was impressed by the exceptional quality of Quantinuum’s researchers and staff.
“I am super excited about our team,” he said. “We have world-class talent in the hardware domain, with expertise in areas such as ion trap, control systems and optics. Our strengths extend beyond hardware because we also excel in middleware and software applications. Thanks to the combination of Cambridge Quantum and the Honeywell Quantum Solutions group, this union has led to the creation of a truly exceptional and unparalleled world-class quantum team.”
Dr. Hazra needed no further prompting to explain the third reason he is enthusiastic about his new undertaking as CEO of Quantinuum. “Some world-class scaling problems are calling out for more than traditional approaches to computing,” he said. “I have spent the last 25 years talking about this subject. Every generation has to look at continuing to extend that capability by some—no pun intended—quantum leap forward.
“I’m thrilled to be here at this point in time, at this place and at this door of a tremendous opportunity for me and for the company. My goal is to build the world’s most valuable quantum company. I think I would be remiss if I didn’t also say that my goal is also to build the world’s most valuable technology company.”
Quantinuum’s advanced quantum technology
Quantinuum’s high-fidelity trapped-ion H-series quantum computer uses an advanced quantum architecture called QCCD that provides multiple zones for the arbitrary rearrangement of qubits. QCCD also allows various codes to be used, including those with exotic geometries. Small chains of ions in multiple small zones provides precision control of qubit operations. Even though complex, qubits can be increased by replicating QCCD zones. An important part of the architecture is that it provides all-to-all qubit connectivity so that entangled states can be created between all qubits.
Currently, Quantinuum is still adding features and functions to its first-generation H-1 series. However, its H-2 series machine is under development, with an undisclosed release date. Even though fidelity is continually being improved, the H-1 already has acceptable fidelities for one- and two-qubit gates, state preparation and measurement, memory and cross-talk. It is likely the H-2 will maintain these fidelities and possibly show improvements in some areas. A few months ago, I wrote an article delving into Quantinuum’s most recent research.
Quantinuum has a fully integrated view of quantum software and hardware. It has developed important applications that take advantage of that integration. For example, it has expert researchers in quantum chemistry who work with customers in materials science, pharma and chemicals. Although quantum chemistry is not yet beyond the capability of classical machines, quantum performance is rapidly increasing. Quantinuum also develops a software application called InQuanto that allows computational chemists to take advantage of today’s quantum computers. Sometime in the future, it is expected that InQuanto will have logical qubits embedded in the application itself.
While Quantinuum faces its own unique technical challenges, it also shares several major problems with others in the quantum ecosystem. Two of the most important quantum computing challenges are:
- A scalable approach for correcting quantum errors has been the subject of research for decades; we cannot scale up qubits without this capability.
- There has been continuous but slow progress made on increasing qubit fidelity; however, we must eventually create near-perfect qubits and quantum gates that perform at around 99.999% fidelity.
Finding solutions to these common challenges is crucial for scaling up quantum computers with millions of qubits to develop practical commercial products and services, as well as to solve critical global issues such as climate change and optimization of energy grids and sources Although it may take another five years or more to address these issues, it is essential that we find solutions.
Dr. Hazra’s contributions to Micron and his role in driving Intel’s transformation and growth were pivotable. Moreover, his extensive technology expertise makes him a fitting candidate for the position at Quantinuum.
While Quantinuum is already conducting cutting-edge research in quantum computing and quantum software, we expect the company to accelerate the pace of its research and exploration of new directions under Dr. Hazra’s leadership.
One thing is for certain – it will be interesting to see what Dr. Hazra does in his first six to 12 months as CEO.