The Rigetti QVM

The Rigetti Quantum Virtual Machine is an implementation of the Quantum Abstract Machine from A Practical Quantum Instruction Set Architecture. [1] It is implemented in ANSI Common LISP and executes programs specified in the Quantum Instruction Language (Quil). Quil is an opinionated quantum instruction language: its basic belief is that in the near term quantum computers will operate as coprocessors, working in concert with traditional CPUs. This means that Quil is designed to execute on a Quantum Abstract Machine that has a shared classical/quantum architecture at its core. The QVM is a wavefunction simulation of unitary evolution with classical control flow and shared quantum classical memory.

Most API keys give access to the QVM with up to 30 qubits. If you would like access to more qubits or help running larger jobs, then contact us at On request we may also provide access to a QVM that allows persistent wavefunction memory between different programs as well as direct access to the wavefunction memory (wrapped as a numpy array) from python.

Multi-qubit basis enumeration on the QVM

The Rigetti QVM enumerates bitstrings such that qubit 0 is the least significant bit (LSB) and therefore on the right end of a bitstring as shown in the table below which contains some examples.

bitstring qubit_(n-1) qubit_2 qubit_1 qubit_0
1…101 1 1 0 1
0…110 0 1 1 0

This convention is counter to that often found in the quantum computing literature where bitstrings are often ordered such that the lowest-index qubit is on the left. The vector representation of a wavefunction assumes the “canonical” ordering of basis elements. I.e., for two qubits this order is 00, 01, 10, 11. In the typical Dirac notation for quantum states, the tensor product of two different degrees of freedom is not always explicitly understood as having a fixed order of those degrees of freedom. This is in contrast to the kronecker product between matrices which uses the same mathematical symbol and is clearly not commutative. This, however, becomes important when writing things down as coefficient vectors or matrices:

\[\begin{split}\ket{0}_0 \otimes \ket{1}_1 = \ket{1}_1 \otimes \ket{0}_0 = \ket{10}_{1,0} \equiv \begin{pmatrix} 0 \\ 0 \\ 1 \\ 0 \end{pmatrix}\end{split}\]

As a consequence there arise some subtle but important differences in the ordering of wavefunction and multi-qubit gate matrix coefficients. According to our conventions the matrix

\[\begin{split}U_{\rm CNOT(1,0)} \equiv \begin{pmatrix} 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 1 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 & 0 & 1 \\ 0 & 0 & 1 & 0 \end{pmatrix}\end{split}\]

corresponds to the Quil instruction CNOT(1, 0) which is counter to how most other people in the field order their tensor product factors (or more specifically their kronecker products). In this convention CNOT(0, 1) is given by

\[\begin{split}U_{\rm CNOT(0,1)} \equiv \begin{pmatrix} 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 & 0 & 1 \\ 0 & 0 & 1 & 0 \\ 0 & 1 & 0 & 0 \end{pmatrix}\end{split}\]

For additional information why we decided on this basis ordering check out our note Someone shouts, “|01000>!” Who is Excited? [2].