Practical engineering of hard spin-glass instances

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Marshall, Jeffrey
Hen, Itay
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Recent technological developments in the field of experimental quantum annealing have made prototypical annealing optimizers with hundreds of qubits commercially available. The experimental demonstration of a quantum speedup for optimization problems has since then become a coveted, albeit elusive goal. Recent studies have shown that the so far inconclusive results, regarding a quantum enhancement, may have been partly due to the benchmark problems used being unsuitable. In particular, these problems had inherently too simple a structure, allowing for both traditional resources and quantum annealers to solve them with no special efforts. The need therefore has arisen for the generation of harder benchmarks which would hopefully possess the discriminative power to separate classical scaling of performance with size from quantum. We introduce here a practical technique for the engineering of extremely hard spin-glass Ising-type problem instances that does not require "cherry picking" from large ensembles of randomly generated instances. We accomplish this by treating the generation of hard optimization problems itself as an optimization problem, for which we offer a heuristic algorithm that solves it. We demonstrate the genuine thermal hardness of our generated instances by examining them thermodynamically and analyzing their energy landscapes, as well as by testing the performance of various state-of-the-art algorithms on them. We argue that a proper characterization of the generated instances offers a practical, efficient way to properly benchmark experimental quantum annealers, as well as any other optimization algorithm.
©2016 American Physical Society. We thank Ehsan Khatami for useful comments and suggestions. This work was partially supported by MINECO (Spain) through Grants No. FIS2012-35719-C02, No. FIS2015-65078-C2-1-P. Computation for the work described in this paper was partially supported by the University of Southern California's Center for High-Performance Computing (
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