Intel’s quantum leap?
Photo: Intel

Intel’s quantum leap?

Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today:Intel shows off its progress toward working quantum-computing chips, why Lacework is moving forward with just one CEO, and cybersecurity companies are looking very closely at freemium strategies.

EUV + silicon wafers = quantum chips?

After Intel admittedly failed to initially embrace a cutting-edge chipmaking technology called extreme ultraviolet lithography, CEO Pat Gelsinger has said the company has fully committed to deploying it as part of its effort to repair its reputation as a manufacturing powerhouse.

The first generation of Intel CPUs manufactured with EUV are around the corner. But the company has found another use for the $180 million EUV machines it has purchased from ASML: quantum computing chips.

  • Intel said Wednesday that the company has used its EUV machines to fabricate qubits on silicon with a 95% yield rate across the wafer.
  • Developed at its Ronler Acres facility in Hillsboro, Oregon, where Intel conducts much of its advanced research, the company said it was able to isolate 12 quantum dots and four sensors.
  • The testing is done at -271.45 degrees Celsius because quantum computing needs to happen at very, very cold temperatures.
  • It’s a big deal, according to Intel, because qubits made with silicon are typically made on “one device” — Intel demonstrated it across a typical 300-milimeter wafer used in high-volume chip manufacturing.

While it’s one thing to print a single silicon wafer, or chip, the challenge the semiconductor industry faces is fabricating hundreds of millions of chips, the volume demanded by global scale. And that’s why Intel’s announcement is interesting — it is another step along the way to enable high-volume quantum chip manufacturing.

  • For the company’s director of quantum hardware, James Clarke, the rub is that Intel has managed — and will continue — to use its existing transistor manufacturing technology to build qubits, instead of transistors.
  • Producing a minimally defective test wafer containing quantum components with EUV technology is another indication that Intel may be able to make quantum chips with its existing semiconductor manufacturing tech.
  • If quantum computing becomes a reality in the way many experts hope, Intel’s ability to scale the number of qubits it prints on a test chip to thousands, or potentially millions, is vital to making a commercially viable quantum machine.

As Intel CTO Greg Lavender said at the company’s Innovation event last month, “We’re not there yet, but people have different theories about when we’ll get to the quantum computing revolution. But we know it’s coming and we’re doing this fundamental research.”

— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)


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A unicorn loses its Hat

Like cloud environments themselves, cloud technology vendors are always in flux. One in particular has been through a lot of change lately — cloud security mega-unicorn Lacework. Last night I reported that its co-CEO, David "Hat" Hatfield, has stepped down.

Hatfield is something of an enterprise tech big shot, having previously been the president of Pure Storage. Lacework's other co-CEO (now sole CEO) Jay Parikh is a name himself though: He was previously Facebook's VP of engineering.

The shake-up comes a few months after Lacework disclosed that it had laid off 20% of its staff, in what was the first major layoff announcement in an actually-not-super-long series of cutbacks in cybersecurity. Parikh told me that Hatfield is staying put on the Lacework board, so it sounds like an amicable situation. A glance at Hat's LinkedIn shows he did something similar with Pure Storage, sticking around as vice chair of its board after stepping down as president in 2019.

Living up to the $1.85 billion in funding and $8.3 billion valuation that investors have awarded Lacework is no easy task, so I'm sure it was nice to share the CEO burden. But it's also understandable that Lacework would eventually want to pick one boss; the co-CEO model is not all that common for a reason.

Parikh told me that getting the company unified around a single set of priorities was a main goal of the move. And ultimately, "we want this company to be successful over 10, 20 years — we're not building this to be a transaction."

— Kyle Alspach (email | twitter)

The freemium way

Cybersecurity and freemium are not a great pairing — or at least haven't been in the past. Snyk has been busy proving that application security is a good place for bottom-up, freemium adoption. And one VC I recently spoke with, Norwest's Rama Sekhar, told me the potential is there for freemium (or rather, "product-led growth," in biz-speak) to go broader within cybersecurity.

Ricardo Villadiego would agree. Villadiego is the founder and CEO of Lumu Technologies, a security startup focused on minimizing the damages from breaches by spotting them sooner. The company's product does this by continuously measuring for signals that a network is behaving in a way that suggests it’s been compromised, with the aim of significantly shrinking the time frame for discovery of a breach.

Notably, Lumu's software-as-a-service is freemium: Limited data collection and retention, network-level visibility, and other capabilities are offered on the free plan. Greater data collection capabilities, longer data retention, and asset-level visibility are among the upgrades a customer can get on the paid plans.

"I do believe that nowadays, the [security] buyer is more sophisticated, and they can validate the value that a vendor can provide without even speaking to sales," Villadiego told me. For Lumu, it would appear to be working out, too: The startup has 300 paying customers, and 99% of them originally started out on the free tier, Villadiego said.

— Kyle Alspach (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

Former Uber security chief Joe Sullivan was convicted of two counts of obstructing a 2016 government investigation into a security breach at the company, a verdict that could have far-reaching implications for breach disclosures and bug-bounty programs.

In other enterprise-tech legal news, the former AWS engineer convicted of hacking Capital One was sentenced to time served and probation, disappointing prosecutors who had sought a sentence of up to seven years.

Google Cloud will set up its first cloud region in Africa, joining AWS and Microsoft with a presence in South Africa scheduled to open in late 2023.


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Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!

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