Shotgun Quantum Computing

Brian N. Siegelwax


The Only Way to Use IBM Quantum

One of the comments on the above poll asked about two things: reservations and least_busy. You could click on the link and view my response directly, but I’ll go into a little more detail here. I’ll also draw a little more attention to my not-so-highly-classified 2023 strategy for trying to use IBM Quantum’s “open” backends.

This “shotgun” strategy is probably the fastest way to get a job to complete on IBM backends in the fair-share era. Keep in mind that, even with a premium account, once your allotment is consumed you’re waiting in queues with everyone else. The only alternative I’m aware of is to dig deep oil wells so you can maybe afford more premium access. Maybe.

A Note About “Minutes”

For the record, because no “minutes” voters commented as I requested, I sent a few private messages inquiring as to how they were getting job results returned in minutes. The executive summary is that at least some of these votes were in error. One works for IBM.

In other words, “minutes” has become an unrealistic expectation.


The #1 sales pitch against reservations is Qiskit’s own Slack channel. I’ve spent most of my admittedly-limited Qiskit Slack time this year in ibm-quantum-systems, where I’ve seen countless complaints about jobs not completing within reservation windows and thus ultimately not completing at all. Feel free to peruse these yourself, as they are public.

Privately, I’ve had collaborators who could’ve gone the reservation route instead opt to go with other providers. Yes, there are viable alternatives to IBM Quantum. I’ve also heard surprise that a job actually ran in a timely fashion with a reservation; that’s awful for IBM that that should be surprising instead of expected. And, furthermore, I’ve read and heard as many grievances outside of Qiskit Slack as I have within it.

The worst part of reservations is that they are not guaranteed. With the disclaimer that I only open Qiskit Slack when I have my own inquiries, the only “solution” I’ve personally ever seen recommended is to reserve even more time. Your reservation (or session, for that matter), has been consumed; ante up to play…