]>
Architectural Principles
for a Quantum InternetQuTechBuilding 22Lorentzweg 1Delft2628 CJNetherlandsw.kozlowski@tudelft.nlQuTechBuilding 22Lorentzweg 1Delft2628 CJNetherlandsS.D.C.Wehner@tudelft.nl
General
Quantum Internet Research GroupQuantum InternetArchitectureRepeaterBell PairEPR PairThe vision of a quantum internet is to fundamentally enhance Internet
technology by enabling quantum communication between any two points on
Earth. To achieve this goal, a quantum network stack should be built from
the ground up as the physical nature of the communication is fundamentally
different. The first realisations of quantum networks are imminent, but
there is no practical proposal for how to organise, utilise, and manage
such networks. In this memo, we attempt lay down the framework and
introduce some basic architectural principles for a quantum internet.
This is intended for general guidance and general interest, but also to
provide a foundation for discussion between physicists and network
specialists.Quantum networks are distributed systems of quantum devices that
utilise fundamental quantum mechanical phenomena such as superposition,
entanglement, and quantum measurement to achieve capabilities beyond what
is possible with classical networks. Depending on the stage of a quantum
network such devices may be simple
photonic devices capable of preparing and measuring only one quantum bit
(qubit) at a time, all the way to large-scale quantum computers of the
future. A quantum network is not meant to replace classical networks, but
rather form an overall hybrid classical quantum network supporting new
capabilities which are otherwise impossible to realise.
This new networking paradigm offers promise for a range of new
applications such as secure communications , distributed quantum computation , or quantum sensor networks . The field of quantum communication has been a
subject of active research for many years and the most well-known
application of quantum communication, quantum key distribution (QKD) for
secure communications, has already been deployed at short (roughly 100km)
distances.Fully quantum networks capable of transmitting and managing entangled
quantum states in order to send, receive, and manipulate distributed
quantum information are now imminent . Whilst a lot of effort has gone into
physically realising and connecting such devices, and making improvements
to their speed and error tolerance there are no worked out proposals for
how to run these networks. To draw an analogy with a classical network,
we are at a stage where we can start to physically connect our devices and
send data, but all sending, receiving, buffer management, connection
synchronisation, and so on, must be managed by the application itself at
what is even lower than assembly level where no common interfaces yet
exist. Furthermore, whilst physical mechanisms for forwarding quantum
states exist, there are no robust protocols for managing such
transmissions.In order to understand the framework for quantum networking a basic
understanding of quantum information is necessary. The following sections
aim to introduce the bare minimum necessary to understand the principles
of operation of a quantum network. This exposition was written with a
classical networking audience in mind. It is assumed that the reader has
never before been exposed to any quantum physics. We refer to e.g. for an in-depth introduction to quantum
information.The differences between quantum computation and classical computation
begin at the bit-level. A classical computer operates on the binary
alphabet { 0, 1 }. A quantum bit, a qubit, exists over the same binary
space, but unlike the classical bit, it can exist in a so-called
superposition of the two possibilities:a |0> + b |1>,where |X> denotes a quantum state, here the binary 0 and 1, and the
coefficients a and b are complex numbers called probability amplitudes.
Physically, such a state can be realised using a variety of different
technologies such as electron spin, photon polarisation, atomic energy
levels, and so on.Upon measurement, the qubit loses its superposition and irreversibly
collapses into one of the two basis states, either |0> or |1>. Which of
the two states it ends up in is not deterministic, but it can be
determined from the readout of the measurement, a classical bit, 0 or 1
respectively. The probability of measuring the state in the |0> state is
|a|^2 and similarly the probability of measuring the state in the |1>
state is |b|^2, where |a|^2 + |b|^2 = 1. This randomness is not due to
our ignorance of the underlying mechanisms, but rather it is a
fundamental feature of a quantum mechanical system .The superposition property plays an important role in fundamental
gate operations on qubits. Since a qubit can exist in a superposition
of its basis states, the elementary quantum gates are able to act on all
states of the superposition at the same time. For example, consider the
NOT gate:NOT (a |0> + b |1>) -> a |1> + b |0>.When multiple qubits are combined in a single quantum state the space
of possible states grows exponentially and all these states can coexist
in a superposition. For example, the general form of a two-qubit
register isa |00> + b |01> + c |10> + d |11>where the coefficients have the same probability amplitude
interpretation as for the single qubit state. Each state represents a
possible outcome of a measurement of the two-qubit register. For
example, |01>, denotes a state in which the first qubit is in the state
|0> and the second is in the state |1>.Performing single qubit gates affects the relevant qubit in each of
the superposition states. Similarly, two-qubit gates also act on all
the relevant superposition states, but their outcome is far more
interesting.Consider a two-qubit register where the first qubit is in the
superposed state (|0> + |1>)/sqrt(2) and the other is in the state |0>.
This combined state can be written as:(|0> + |1>)/sqrt(2) x |0> = (|00> + |10>)/sqrt(2),where x denotes a tensor product (the mathematical mechanism for
combining quantum states together). Let us now consider the two-qubit
CNOT gate. The CNOT gate takes as input two qubits, a control and
target, and applies the NOT gate to the target if the control qubit is
set. The truth table looks likeINOUT0000010110111110Now, consider performing a CNOT gate on the ensemble with the first
qubit being the control. We apply a two-qubit gate on all the
superposition states:CNOT (|00> + |10>)/sqrt(2) -> (|00> + |11>)/sqrt(2).What is so interesting about this two-qubit gate operation? The final
state is *entangled*. There is no possible way of representing that
quantum state as a product of two individual qubits, they are no longer
independent and their behaviour cannot be fully described without
accounting for the other qubit. The states of the two individual qubits
are now correlated beyond what is possible to achieve classically.
Neither qubit is in a definite |0> or |1> state, but if we perform a
measurement on either one, the outcome of the partner qubit will
*always* yield the exact same outcome. The final state, whether it's
|00> or |11>, is fundamentally random as before, but the states of the
two qubits following a measurement will always be identical.Once a measurement is performed, the two qubits are once again
independent. The final state is either |00> or |11> and both of these
states can be trivially decomposed into a product of two individual
qubits. The entanglement has been consumed and if the same measurement
is to be repeated, the entangled state must be prepared again.Entanglement is the fundamental building block of quantum networks. To
see this, consider the state from the previous section:(|00> + |11>)/sqrt(2).Neither of the two qubits is in a definite |0> or |1> state and we need
to know the state of the entire register to be able to fully describe the
behaviour of the two qubits.Entangled qubits have interesting non-local properties. Consider
sending one of the qubits to another device. This device could in
principle be anywhere: on the other side of the room, in a different
country, or even on a different planet. Provided negligible noise has
been introduced, the two qubits will forever remain in the entangled state
until a measurement is performed. The physical distance does not matter
at all for entanglement.This lies at the heart of quantum networking, because it is possible to
leverage the non-classical correlations provided by entanglement in order
to design completely new types of application protocols that are not
possible to achieve with just classical communication. Examples of such
applications are quantum cryptography, blind quantum computation, or
distributed quantum computation.Entanglement has two very special features from which one can derive
some intuition about the types of applications enabled by a quantum
network.The first stems from the fact that entanglement enables stronger
than classical correlations, leading to opportunities for tasks that
require coordination. As a trivial example consider the problem of
consensus between two nodes who want to agree on the value of a single
bit. They can use the quantum network to prepare the state (|00> +
|11>)/sqrt(2) with each node holding one of the two qubits. Once any of
the two nodes performs a measurement the state of the two qubits collapses
to either |00> or |11> so whilst the outcome is random and does not exist
before measurement, the two nodes will always measure the same value. We
can also build the more general multi-qubit state (|00...> +
|11...>)/sqrt(2) and perform the same algorithm between an arbitrary
number of nodes. These stronger than classical correlations generalise to
more complicated measurement schemes as well.The second feature of entanglement is that it cannot be shared, in the
sense that if two qubits are maximally entangled with each other, than it
is physically impossible for any other system to have any share of this
entanglement. Hence, entanglement forms a sort of private and inherently
untappable connection between two nodes once established.It is impossible to entangle two qubits without ever having them
directly interact with each other (e.g. by performing a local two-qubit
gate, such as the CNOT). A local - or mediated - interaction is necessary
to create entanglement and thus such states cannot be created between two
quantum nodes that cannot transmit quantum states to each other.
Therefore, it is the transmission of qubits that draws the line between a
genuine quantum network and a collection of quantum computers connected
over a classical network.A quantum network is defined as a collection of nodes that is able to
exchange qubits and distribute entangled states amongst themselves. A
quantum node that is able only to communicate classically with another
quantum node is not a member of a quantum network.More complex services and applications can be built on top of entangled
states distributed by the network, see e.g. >To build a network we must first physically connect all the nodes
with quantum channels that enable them to distribute the entanglement.
Unfortunately, our ability to transfer quantum states is complicated by
the no-cloning theorem.The no-cloning theorem states that it is impossible to create an
identical copy of an arbitrary unknown quantum state. Since performing a
measurement on a quantum state destroys its superposition, there is no
practical way of learning the exact state of a qubit in an unknown
state. Therefore, it is impossible to use the same mechanisms that
worked for classical networks for signal amplification, retransmission,
and so on as they all rely on the ability to copy the underlying data.
Since any physical channel will always be lossy, connecting nodes within
a quantum network is a challenging endeavour and its architecture must
at its core address this very issue.The most straightforward way to distribute an entangled state is to
simply transmit one of the qubits directly to the other end across a
series of nodes while performing sufficient forward quantum error
correction to bring losses down to an acceptable level. Despite the
no-cloning theorem and the inability to directly measure a quantum state
error-correcting mechanisms for quantum communication exist . However, even in the most optimistic scenarios
the hardware requirements to fault-tolerantly transmit a single qubit
are far beyond near-term capabilities. Nevertheless, due to the promise
of fault-tolerance and direct transmission's favourable poly-logarithmic
scaling with distance, it may eventually become a desirable method for
entanglement distribution.An alternative relies on the observation that we do not need to be
able to distribute any arbitrary entangled quantum state. We only
need to be able to distribute any one of what are known as the Bell
Pair states. Bell Pair states are the entangled two-qubit states:
|00> + |11>,
|00> - |11>,
|01> + |10>,
|01> - |10>,
where the constant 1/sqrt(2) normalisation factor has been ignored
for clarity. Any of the four Bell Pair state above will do as it is
possible to transform any Bell Pair into another Bell Pair with local
operations performed on only one of the qubits. That is, either of
the nodes that hold the two qubits of the Bell Pair can apply a series
of single qubit gates to just their qubit in order to transform the
ensemble between the different variants.Distributing a Bell Pair between two nodes is much easier than
transmitting an arbitrary quantum state over a network. Since the
state is known handling errors becomes easier and small-scale
error-correction (such as entanglement distillation) combined with
reattempts becomes a valid strategy.The reason for using Bell Pairs specifically as opposed to any
other two-qubit state, is that they are the maximally entangled
two-qubit set of basis states. Maximal entanglement means that these
states have the strongest non-classical correlations of all possible
two-qubit states. Furthermore, since single-qubit local operations
can never increase entanglement, less entangled states would impose
some constraints on distributed quantum algorithms. This makes Bell
Pairs particularly useful as a generic building block for distributed
quantum applications.The observation that we only need to be able to distribute Bell
Pairs relies on the fact that this enables the distribution of any
other arbitrary entangled state. This can be achieved via quantum
state teleportation. Quantum state teleportation consumes an unknown
quantum state that we want to transmit and recreates it at the desired
destination. This does not violate the no-cloning theorem as the
original state is destroyed in the processTo achieve this, a Bell Pair needs to be distributed between the
source and destination before teleportation commences. The source
then entangles the transmission qubit with its end of the Bell Pair
and performs a measurement. This consumes the Bell Pair's
entanglement turning the source and destination qubits into
independent states. The measurements yields two classical bits which
the source sends to the destination over a classical channel. Based on
the value of the received two classical bits, the destination performs
one of four possible operations on its end of the Bell Pair, which
results in a clone of the unknown quantum state of the transmission
qubit.The unknown quantum state that was transmitted never entered the
network itself. Therefore, the network needs to only be able to
reliably produce Bell Pairs between any two nodes in the network.Reducing the problem of quantum connectivity to one of generating a
Bell Pair has facilitated the problem, but it has not solved it.The technology to generate a Bell Pair between two directly
connected quantum nodes, store the qubits, and perform teleportation,
already exists and has been demonstrated in laboratory conditions
. Interestingly, neither of the two
qubits of the pair need to be transmitted any further.A Bell Pair between any two nodes in the network can be constructed
from Bell Pairs generated along each individual link on the path
between the two end-points. Each node along the path can consume the
two Bell Pairs on the two links that it is connected to in order to
produce a new Bell Pair between the two far ends. This process is
known as entanglement swapping. Pictorially it can be represented as
follows:where x~~x denotes a Bell Pair with individual qubits represented
by x, -- denotes a quantum link, and [ ] denotes a node. The diagram
above represents the situation after the middle node has generated a
Bell Pair with two of its directly connected neighbours. Now, the
middle node performs an entanglement swap operation (the exact details
of the mechanism are beyond the scope of this memo). This operation
consumes the two Bell Pairs and produces a new Bell Pair between the
two far ends of this three-node network as follows:The outcome is guaranteed to be a Bell Pair between the two end
nodes, but which of the four possible Bell Pairs is produced is not
deterministic. However, the middle node will know which one was
produced as the entanglement swap is a measurement operation that
yields two classical bits. The final state can be inferred from this
two-bit readout. Therefore, the middle node needs only to communicate
the outcome over a classical channel to one or both ends who can apply
a correction to transform the pair into any of its other forms (if so
desired).Neither the generation of Bell Pairs or the swapping operations are
lossless operations. Therefore, with each link and each swap the
quality of the state degrades. However, it is possible to create
higher quality Bell Pair states from two or more lower quality Bell
Pair states through a process called distillation. Therefore, once the
quality loss over a given distance become prohibitive, additional
redundancy may be used to restore the state quality.Direct state transmission whilst simpler conceptually is much more
demanding to implement reliably in practice which means that any
near-term practical realisation is more likely to succeed if it is based
on the Bell Pair and entanglement swapping architecture. This is the
architecture that we will focus on in the rest of this memo for
practical reasons.Nevertheless, the direct transmission proposal may be relevant in the
future as it does enable the fault-tolerant transmission of unknown
quantum states. It might even be beneficial to utilise a hybrid
approach that combines the fault-tolerance of direct transmission with
the generic nature of Bell Pairs which lends itself to paralellisation
and resource provisioning.A generic quantum network of three nodes could be represented asWhere "App" is some application running over a quantum network,
--CC-- denote classical communication links (e.g. over the public
Internet or a private LAN), and "QNet" is a generic network stack.
Architectures for the network stack have been proposed already , but their
discussion is beyond the scope of this memo. However, they all map onto
this generic diagram. Nodes within a quantum network that are capable
of performing the entanglement swap operation are often referred to as
quantum repeaters and we shall adopt this terminology from this point
on. End-hosts connecting at the edge of the network are not necessarily
repeaters themselves.The key message here is that a network stack relies on the hardware
being able to provide two services: Bell Pair generation across a link,
and swap operation. In any network model it is assumed that the
physical device is capable of providing both of these services and
offers a suitable interface for their usage.Strictly speaking (under idealised conditions) quantum memories are
not needed for a functional quantum network as long as the network is
able to simultaneously generate all the Bell Pairs, swap the
entanglement, and deliver the final Bell Pair to the application in a
usable form. However, realistically, to be able to provide the two
services above, the hardware will also need to be able to store the
qubits in memory which is highly non-trivial.Furthermore, it is also assumed that the applications are able to
communicate classically, and that the nodes themselves are also
connected over some logical classical channel. The classical and
quantum links do not have to coincide. The classical messaging may take
a completely different path to the quantum channel as long as the
latency characteristics meet the requirements of the control
protocol.The model above has effectively abstracted away the particulars of
the hardware implementation. However, certain physical constraints need
to be considered in order to build a practical network. Some of these
are fundamental constraints and no matter how much the technology
improves, they will always need to be addressed. Others are artefacts
of the early stages of a new technology. We here consider a highly
abstract scenario and refer to for pointers to
the physics literature.The quality of a quantum state is described by a physical quantity
called fidelity, that takes a value between 0 and 1 (higher is
better). Fidelity is the measure of how close a quantum state is to
the quantum state we desire it to be in. It expresses the probability
that one state will pass a test to identify as the other.Fidelity is an important property of a quantum system that stems
from the fact that no physical operation is perfect. Furthermore,
applications will in general require the fidelity of a quantum state
to be above some minimum threshold in order to guarantee the
correctness of their algorithm and it is the responsibility of the
network to provide such a state.Additionally, entanglement swapping operations, even if perfect,
lead to a further reduction in the fidelity of the final state. Two
imperfect Bell Pairs when combined will produce a slightly worse Bell
Pair. Whilst distillation is one of the available mechanisms to
correct for these errors it requires additional Bell Pairs to be
produced. There will be a trade-off between how much distillation is
to be done versus what fidelity is acceptable.This is a fundamental constraint as perfect noiseless operations
and lossless communication channels are unachievable. Therefore, no
Bell Pair will be generated with perfect fidelity and the network must
account for this.In addition to discrete operations being imperfect, storing a qubit
in memory is also highly non-trivial. The main difficulty in
achieving persistent storage is that it is extremely challenging to
isolate a quantum system from the environment. The environment
introduces an uncontrollable source of noise into the system which
affects the fidelity of the state. This process is known as
decoherence. Eventually, the state has to be discarded once its
fidelity degrades too much.The memory lifetime depends on the particular physical setup, but
the highest achievable values currently are on the order of seconds.
These values have increased tremendously over the lifetime of the
different technologies and are bound to keep increasing. However, if
quantum networks are to be realised in the near future, they need to
be able to handle short memory lifetimes. An architecture that
handles short lifetimes may also be more cost-efficient in the
future.Entanglement generation on a link between two connected nodes is
not a very efficient process and it requires many attempts to succeed.
A fast repetition rate for Bell Pair generation is achievable, but
only one in a few thousands will succeed. Currently, the highest
achievable rates of success between nodes capable of storing the
resulting qubits are of the order of 10 Hz. Combined with short
memory lifetimes this leads to very tight timing windows to build up
network-wide connectivity. Achievable rates are likely to increase
with time, but just like with quantum memories, it may be more
cost-efficient in the future to provide low-rate links in some parts
of the network.Most physical architectures capable of storing qubits are only able
to generate entanglement using only a subset of its available qubits
called communication qubits. Once a Bell Pair has been generated
using a communication qubit, its state can be transferred into memory.
This may impose additional limitations on the network. In particular
if a given node has only one communication qubit it cannot
simultaneously generate Bell Pairs over two links. It must generate
entanglement over the links one at a time.Currently all hardware implementations are homogeneous and they do
not interface with each other. In general, it is very challenging to
combine different quantum information processing technologies at
present. Coupling different technologies with each other is of great
interest as it may help overcome the weaknesses of the different
implementations, but this may take a long time to be realised with
high reliability and thus is not a near-term goal.Given that the most practical way of realising quantum network
connectivity is using Bell Pair and entanglement swapping repeater
technology what sort of principles should guide us in assembling such
networks such that they are functional, robust, efficient, and most
importantly: they work. Furthermore, how do we design networks so that
they work under the constraints imposed by the hardware available today,
but do not impose unnecessary burden on future technology. Redeploying
network technology is a non-trivial process.As this is a completely new technology that is likely to see many
iterations over its lifetime, this memo must not serve as a definitive
set of rules, but merely as a general set of recommended guidelines
based on principles and observations made by the community. The benefit
of having a community built document at this early stage is that
expertise in both quantum information and network architecture is needed
in order to successfully build a quantum internet.When outlining any set of principles we must ask ourselves what
goals do we want to achieve as inevitably trade-offs must be made. So
what sort of goals should drive a quantum network architecture? The
following list has been inspired by the history of the classical
Internet, but it will inevitably evolve with time and the needs of its
users. The goals are listed in order of priority which in itself may
also evolve as the community learns more about the technology.Support distributed quantum applications
The primary purpose of a quantum internet is to run distributed
quantum protocols and it is of utmost importance that they can run
well and efficiently. Therefore, the needs of quantum applications
should always be considered first. The requirements for different
applications can be found in .
If a network is able to distribute entanglement it is officially
quantum. However, if it is unable to distribute these states with
a sufficiently high fidelity at a reasonable rate for a majority
of potential applications it is not practical.Support tomorrow's distributed quantum applications
There are many applications already proposed to run over a quantum
internet. However, more algorithms will be invented as the
community grows as well as the robustness and the reliability of
the technology. Any proposed architecture should not constrain
the capabilities of the network for short-term benefit.Hardware heterogeneity
There are multiple proposals for realising practical quantum
repeaters and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. It
is also very likely that the most optimal technologies in the
future will be hybrid combinations of the many different solutions
currently under development. It should be an explicit goal of the
architecture to allow for a large variety of hardware
implementations.Be flexible with regards to hardware capabilities and
limitations
This goal encompasses two important points. First, the
architecture should be able to function under the physical
constraints imposed by the current generation hardware. Second,
it should not make it difficult to run the network over any
hardware that may come along in the future. The physical
capabilities of repeaters will improve and redeploying a
technology is extremely challenging.Security
Whilst the priority for the first quantum networks should be to
simply work, we cannot forget that ultimately they have to also be
secure. This has implications for the physical realisations (do
they satisfy the idealised theoretical models) and also the design
of the control stack.
It is actually difficult to guarantee security at the network
level and even if the network did provide such guarantees, the
application would still need to perform its own verification
similarly to how one ensures end-to-end security in classical
networks.
It turns out that as long as the underlying implementation
corresponds to (or sufficiently approximates) theoretical models
of quantum cryptography, quantum cryptographic protocols do not
need the network to provide any guarantees about the authenticity,
confidentiality, or integrity of the transmitted qubits or the
generated entanglement. Instead, applications such as QKD
establish such guarantees using the classical network in
conjunction with he quantum one. This is much easier than
demanding that the network deliver secure entanglement, which
indeed is not needed for quantum applications.
Nevertheless, control protocols themselves should be security
aware in order to protect the operation of the network itself and
limit disruption.Availability and resilience
A practical and usable network is able to continue to operate
despite losses and failures, and will be robust to malicious
actors trying to disable connectivity. These may be simply
considered different aspects of security, but it is worthwhile to
address them explicitly at the architectural level already.Easy to manage and monitor
Quantum networks rely on complex physical phenomena and require
hardware that is challenging to build. Furthermore, the quantum
resources will at first be very scarce and potentially very
expensive. This entails a need for a robust management solution.
It is important that a good management solution needs to come with
adequate monitoring capabilities.
Good management solutions may also be key to optimising the
networks which in turn may be crucial in making them economically
feasible. Unlike user data that is transmitted over classical
networks, quantum networks only need to generate generic Bell
Pairs. This leaves a lot of room for pre-allocating resources in
an efficient manner.The principles support the goals, but are not goals themselves.
The goals define what we want to build and the principles provide a
guideline in how we might achieve this. The goals will also be the
foundation for defining any metric of success for a network
architecture, whereas the principles in themselves do not distinguish
between success and failure. For more information about design
considerations for quantum networks see .Bell Pairs are the fundamental building block
The key service that a quantum network provides is the
distribution of entanglement between the nodes in a network. This
point additionally specifies that the entanglement is primarily
distributed in the form of the entangled Bell Pair states which
should be used as a building block in providing other services,
including more complex entangled states.Fidelity is part of the service
In addition to being able to deliver Bell Pairs to the
communication end-points, the Bell Pairs must be of sufficient
fidelity. Unlike in classical networks where errors should
essentially be eliminated for most application protocols, many
quantum applications only need imperfect entanglement to function.
However, different applications will have different requirements
for what fidelity they can work with. It is the network's
responsibility to balance the resource usage with respect to the
application's requirements. It may be that it is cheaper for the
network to provide lower fidelity pairs that are just above the
threshold required by the application than it is to guarantee high
fidelity pairs to all applications regardless of their
requirements.Bell Pairs are indistinguishable
Any two Bell Pairs between the same two nodes are
indistinguishable for the purposes of an application provided they
both satisfy its required fidelity threshold. This point is
crucial in enabling the reuse of resources of a network and for
the purposes of provisioning resources to meet application demand.
However, the qubits that make up the pair themselves are not
indistinguishable and the two nodes operating on a pair must
coordinate to make sure they are operating on qubits that belong
to the same Bell Pair.Time as an expensive resource
With the current technology, time is the most expensive resource.
It is not the only resource that is in short supply (memory, and
communication qubits are as well), but ultimately it is the
lifetime of quantum memories that imposes the most difficult
conditions for operating an extended network of quantum nodes.
Current hardware has low rates of Bell Pair generation, short
memory lifetimes, and access to a limited number of communication
qubits. All these factors combined mean that even a short waiting
queue at some node could be enough for the Bell Pairs to decohere.
However, time is only expensive once quantum operations are
underway. If no quantum operations are currently being processed
then the network can use this time to prepare and provision
resources.
As hardware improves, the need for carefully timing quantum
operations may become smaller. It is currently unknown what the
cost of these improvements will be, but it is conceivable that
there is value in having relatively cheap and undemanding links
connected at the edges of a network which will have very short
memory lifetimes and low rates of Bell Pair generation.Limit classical communication
This point offers a practical guideline to the issue of timing. A
bottleneck in many quantum networked algorithms is the classical
communication needed between quantum operations to synchronise
state. Ideally, classical control mechanisms that require
increased memory lifetimes should be avoided.
For example, some quantum protocols may need to perform a
correction for the random outcome of a quantum measurement. For
this, they will block the state from further operations until a
classical message is received with the information necessary to
perform the correction. The time during which the quantum state
is blocked is effectively wasted. It reduces the time available
for subsequent operations possibly rendering the state useless for
an application.
Trade-offs that allow a protocol to limit the number of blocking
classical communication rounds once quantum operations have
commenced will in general be worth considering.Parallelise quantum operations
A further point to address the issue of timing constraints in the
network. The Bell Pairs on the individual links need not be
generated one after another along the path between the
communication end-points. The order does not matter at all.
Furthermore, the order of the swap operations is flexible as long
as they don't reduce the fidelity too much. Parallelising these
operations is key to optimising quantum protocols.Avoid time-based coordination when possible
A solution to timing constraints is to synchronise clocks and
agree on the timing of events. However, such solutions have
several downsides. Whilst network clock synchronisation may be
accurate enough for certain purposes it introduces an additional
element of complexity, especially when multiple nodes in different
networks must be synchronised. Furthermore, clock synchronisation
will never be perfect and it is conceivable that hardware
capabilities advance so much that time-based mechanisms
under-utilise resources in the more efficient parts of the
network.
Nevertheless, it may not be possible to avoid clocks, but such
solutions should be adequately justified.Pre-allocate resources
Regardless of what application is running over the network it will
have the same needs as any other application: a number of Bell
Pairs of sufficient fidelity. Whilst the fidelity is a variable
number, the indistinguishability of Bell Pairs means that there is
lots of flexibility in how a network may provision resources to
meet demand. The additional timing constraints mean that
pre-allocation of resources will be central to a usable quantum
network.Even though no user data enters a quantum network security is listed as
an explicit goal for the architecture and this issue is addressed in the
section on goals. Even though user data doesn't enter the network, it is
still possible to attack the control protocols and violate the
authenticity, confidentiality, and integrity of communication. However,
as this is an informational memo it does not propose any concrete
mechanisms to achieve these goals.In summary:As long as the underlying implementation corresponds to (or
sufficiently approximates) theoretical models of quantum cryptography,
quantum cryptographic protocols do not need the network to provide any
guarantees about the authenticity, confidentiality, or integrity of the
transmitted qubits or the generated entanglement. Instead, applications
such as QKD establish such guarantees using the classical network in
conjunction with he quantum one. This is much easier than demanding that
the network deliver secure entanglement.This memo includes no request to IANA.The authors of this memo acknowledge funding received from the EU
Flagship on Quantum Technologies through Quantum Internet Alliance
project.The authors would further like to acknowledge Carlo Delle Donne,
Matthew Skrzypczyk, and Axel Dahlberg for useful discussions on this topic
prior to the submission of this memo.Quantum cryptography: Public key distribution and coin
tossingSecure multi-party quantum computation. Proceedings of
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limitThe Quantum Internet has arrived (and it hasn't)Quantum internet: A vision for the road aheadExperimental Tests of Realistic Local Theories via Bell's
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DistancesDeterministic delivery of remote entanglement on a quantum
networkDesigning quantum repeater networksA Link Layer Protocol for Quantum NetworksQuantum Computation and Quantum Information