Azure Gets New Machine Learning Capabilities Aimed at Non-AI Developers

Ahead of its Build 2019 developer conference next week, on Thursday Microsoft announced a number of improvements coming to Azure that the company says make it easier for developers without an artificial intelligence (AI) background to build enterprise AI solutions and machine learning models.

"[Microsoft is] focused on helping all developers -- even those without an AI or data science background -- use its tools and services to deliver the big benefits that more and more customers expect," the company said in an announcement of these changes. "Microsoft expects more and more customers to start using AI, both because they see the business benefits and because the tools are more accessible."

Perhaps the most significant change is coming to Azure Machine Learning, which will now feature three "modes" for developing its cloud-based machine learning models: "code-first," for developers who prefer to work in code;"no code," aimed at "business experts" others with no programming experience; and "drag and drop," designed for people who may want to make their own machine learning models but don't quite have the programming background to code them. All three models feed into the same back end.

To help improve the interoperability of Azure Machine Learning, the platform will soon officially support the Open Neural Network Exchange, an open cross-platform "ecosystem" for AI models also supported by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Facebook. The platform also supports ONNX Runtime, which Microsoft made open source in December 2018.

Other improvements announced for Azure Machine Learning include improved Azure DevOps integration, user interface improvements and low-latency improvements, plus support for Nvidia TensorRT and Intel nGraph for programming those manufacturers' high-performance deep learning chipsets.

Microsoft also announced that Azure Search is getting the AI treatment with new "cognitive search" capabilities. The company explained that customers will soon be able to apply Azure Cognitive Services algorithms directly to Azure Search, adding greatly improved business intelligence (BI) and analytics capabilities.

And speaking of Azure Cognitive Services, the company's collection of SDKs, APIs and other tools to help developers without a data science background apply AI solutions in the enterprise, the company also announced this service will get a new category called "decision" (to add to the existing vision, knowledge, language, speech, search and anomaly detection categories). Within decision, developers and data scientists will find (not unsurprisingly) tools for creating applications with better decision-making capabilities, including a "content moderator" and a personalization tool.

More details on all of the above announcements (plus many others expected) will come next week at Microsoft Build 2019.

About the Author

Becky Nagel is the former editorial director and director of Web for 1105 Media's Converge 360 group, and she now serves as vice president of AI for company, specializing in developing media, events and training for companies around AI and generative AI technology. She's the author of "ChatGPT Prompt 101 Guide for Business Users" and other popular AI resources with a real-world business perspective. She regularly speaks, writes and develops content around AI, generative AI and other business tech. Find her on X/Twitter @beckynagel.