Digital Annealer, a Completely New Architecture: Looking into the New Future Opened Up by Innovative Computing Technology

Fujitsu launched commercial services for Digital Annealer on May 15, 2018. Participants in the discussion during the frontline session at Fujitsu Forum 2018 included Professor Ali Sheikholeslami of the University of Toronto, Canada and Mr. Andrew Fursman, CEO of 1QB Information Technologies Inc. (1QBit). During the session entitled the "New Future Opened Up by Digital Annealer," we introduced how Digital Annealer is used on the front lines of medical care and other areas closely related to people's lives.
[Fujitsu Forum 2018 Frontline Session Report]

Naoko Yoshizawa
Corporate Executive Officer
Fujitsu Limited

Fujitsu Laboratories Director Takeshi Horie, who served as session moderator, introduced Naoko Yoshizawa, Fujitsu's Corporate Executive Officer in charge of the Digital Annealer business.

Yoshizawa opened the session with these words: "The three technologies of HPC, Deep Learning, and Digital Annealer accelerate AI." She explained that in the HPC arena, Fujitsu developed the K computer and is now developing its successor. With respect to Deep Learning, she said that Fujitsu will release a dedicated processor (DLU) in 2018. Yoshizawa remarked, "Only Fujitsu has all three of these technologies, including Digital Annealer, and each element correlates with the others when building solutions." She then explained Digital Annealer's background and future roadmap.

Digital Annealer Bridges Today's and Tomorrow's Computing

Amid expectations that practical use of quantum computers will bring about the next generation of computing, the development competition among major players worldwide is intensifying. Despite this, it is thought that it will take more time before quantum computers that can solve diverse problems in the real world can be put into practical use.

Given these circumstances, Fujitsu has developed a completely new type of computer dedicated to solving combinatorial optimization problems, Digital Annealer, which uses a digital circuit design inspired by quantum phenomena. On May 15, 2018, Fujitsu launched a cloud service with Digital Annealer. Combinatorial optimization problems can be found in a variety of sectors, including drug discovery, finance, and distribution; solving such problems offers many business opportunities.

Digital Annealer uses a digital circuit design inspired by quantum phenomena.

Since Digital Annealer is built using existing semiconductor technology, it operates stably at normal temperatures without requiring a special cooling system. Digital Annealer has demonstrated a great ability to practically solve various combinatorial optimization problems which require large-scale computation and high accuracy. In Fujitsu's in-house usage, Digital Annealer optimized movements for picking up parts stored in a warehouse at a production site, successfully reducing transfer distances by 20%. By optimizing the locations of parts inside the warehouse, Digital Annealer can further reduce movement distances by up to 45%.

Example of an in-house practice at Fujitsu IT Products Limited: Improving productivity by optimizing line flow inside a plant (Japanese)
Quickly solving combinatorial optimization problems that previously took an extremely long time to calculate

We will begin by providing the first generation of Digital Annealer as a cloud service. Later, we plan to provide the second generation Digital Annealer UNIT (DAU) with improved performance as well as Digital Annealer for on-premises usage in the third quarter of fiscal 2018. Also, we are currently developing a large-scale parallel processing technology for DAUs. With these technologies, we will dramatically increase the scale of our capabilities in order to handle 1 million-bit problems by fiscal 2019.

The 1,024-bit first generation of Digital Annealer is initially available as a cloud service, an up to 8,192-bit DAU will appear within this year, and then on-premises products will become available.

The second generation of the DAU will have improved accuracy and increased scale. We think that application areas will expand by adding the ability to change the configuration to address the characteristics of the problem at hand: some problems require high accuracy (e.g., financial problems), while others require large-scale computation (e.g., chemical problems).

Expanding application areas by switching the configuration

In response to Yoshizawa's explanation, Fujitsu Laboratories Director Takeshi Horie summarized the discussion: "We have already conducted verification of Digital Annealer with customers. Along with technology development, our cloud service and technical service are gradually being deployed globally, advancing our efforts to solve social problems."

Combining 1QBit Software with Digital Annealer Is the Best Solution to Solve Optimization Problems

Andrew Fursman
1QB Information Technologies, Inc.

Next, as Fujitsu's partner for globally deploying Digital Annealer, Horie introduced Mr. Andrew Fursman, CEO of Canada's 1QBit, which is the world's top quantum computing software vendor.

Fujitsu has partnered with 1QBit, the world's top software vendor for quantum computing. By collaborating with 1QBit, Fujitsu will provide Digital Annealer services and develop business globally.

Partnership with 1QBit

Mr. Fursman introduced a case study about solving the following combinatorial optimization problem with Digital Annealer: "If we try all the combinations of 250 lights on-stage to obtain the optimal combination for light distribution, the number of combinations is 2 raised to the power of 250. This number is nearly the number of observable atoms in the universe. To try all those combinations, in theory it will take more time than the history of the universe."

Another example can be found in the financial industry. JP Morgan developed a risk parity portfolio using the hierarchical type of the minimum variance method. The company proved that risks can be reduced 20% by calculating the correlation of combinations with stock prices.

In the chemical field, the similarity of molecules can be analyzed in terms of numeric values by turning molecular structures into mathematical graphs. Digital Annealer's great advantage is its ability to analyze graph structures, and it will become able to perform more complex analysis in the future.

Such examples can also be found in other fields; the innovation brought about by this new type of computing has only begun. Mr. Fursman summarized his thoughts: "When processing capacity increases explosively in the future, I want to realize innovation in this new type of computing through collaboration between Fujitsu and 1QBit."

Horie then asked a question: "1QBit is the top quantum computing software vendor. What led you to form a global partnership with Fujitsu?" Mr. Fursman responded, "Fujitsu's Digital Annealer serves as a bridge with future quantum computers; at the moment, it is the best solution to run 1QBit's software."