Artificial Intelligence (AI), Business Intellegence (BI), Gunnebo Business Solutions, Machine Learning (ML), Microsoft Azure

Machine Learning and Cognitive Services

Machine learning is gradually becoming the driving force for every business.  Business organizations, large or small trying to seek machine learning models to predict present and future demands and do innovation, production, marketing, and distribution for their products.

Business value concerns of all forms of value that decides the well-being of a business. It’s a much broader term than economic value encompassing many other factors such as customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, social values etc. It’s the key measurement of the success of a business. AI helps you to Accelerate this business value in two ways. That’s through allowing to make correct decisions and innovation.

Machine learning technologies. Millennial students teaching a robot to analyse data
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Remember the days when Yahoo was the major search engine and Internet Explorer was the Major web browser. One of the main reason for their downfall was their inability to make correct decisions. Wise decisions are made by analyzing data. More data you analyze, better decisions you make. Machine Learning greatly support in this cause.

There was a time, Customers accepted what companies were offering them. Things are different now. Demands of customers for new features are ever more increasing. Machine Learning has been the decisive factor behind almost every new innovation whether it be face recognition, personal assistants or autonomous vehicles.

Machine Learning in more details

First starts with learning what machine learning is. Machine learning enables systems to learn and make decisions without explicitly programming for it.  Machine learning is applied in a broad range of fields. Nowadays, Almost every human activity getting automated with the help of machine learning. A particular area of study that machine learning largely exploited is data science.

Data science plays with data. Data must be extracted to make the best decisions for a business.

The amount of data that a business has to work with is enormous today. For example, social media producing billions of data every day. To stay ahead of your competitors, every business must make the best use of this data. That’s where you need machine learning.

Machine learning has invented many techniques to make better decisions out of large data sets. These include Neural networks, SVM, Reinforcement learning and many other algorithms.

Among them, Neural networks are leading the way. It improves consistently spawning child technologies such as convolutional and recurrent neural networks to provide better results in different scenarios.

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Learning machine learning from the beginning, and trying to develop models from scratch is not a wise idea. That yields huge cost and demands a lot of expertise in the subject. That why someone should try to take the assistance of a machine learning vendor. Google, Amazon, Microsoft they all provides Machine learning services. Let’s take Microsoft as an example, and review what qualities we should look for when selecting a vendor.

Using cloud as a solution for machine learning

It simplifies and accelerates the building, training, and deployment of machine learning models. It provides with a set of APIs to interact with when creating models hiding all the complexity in devising machine learning algorithms. Azure has the capability to identify suitable algorithms and tune hyperparameters faster. Autoscale is a built-in feature of Azure cloud services which automatically scale applications. This autoscaling feature has many advantages. It allows your application to perform best while keeping the cost to a minimum. Azure machine learning APIs can be used with any major technologies such as C# and Java.

There are many other advantages you will have with cloud Machine Learning

  • Flexible pricing. You pay for what you use.
  • High user-friendliness. Easier to learn and less restrictive.
  • More accurate predictions based on a wide range of algorithms.
  • Fine tuning results are easier.
  • Ability to publish your data model as a web service Which is easy to consume.
  • The tool allows data streaming platforms like Azure Event Hubs to consume data from thousands of concurrently connected devices.
  • You can publish experiments for data models in just a few minutes whereas expert data scientists may take days to do the same.
  • Azure security measures manage the security of Azure Machine Learning that protects data in the cloud and offers security-health monitoring of the environment

Using Cognitive Services to power your business applications

We will go on to discuss how Azure cognitive service can be used power up a business application. Azure cognitive services are a combination of APIs, SDKs, and services which allows developers to build intelligent applications without having expertise in data science or AI. These applications can have the ability to see, hear, speak, understand or even to reason.

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Azure cognitive services were introduced to extend the Microsoft existing portfolio of APIs.

New services provided by Azure cognitive services includes

  • Computer vision API which provides with advanced algorithms necessary to implement image processing
  • Face API to enable face detection and recognition
  • Emotion API gives options to recognize the emotion of a face
  • Speech service adds speech functionalities to applications
  • Text analytics can be used for natural language processings

Most of these APIs were built targeting business applications. Text analytics can be used to harvest user feedbacks thus allowing businesses to take necessary actions to accelerate their value. Speech services allow business organizations to provide better customer services to their clients. All these APIs have a free trial which can be used to evaluate them. You can use these cognitive services to build various types of AI applications that will solve a complex problem for you thus accelerating your business value.

If you want to talk more about ML and AI, feel free to contact me: bjorn.nostdahl@gunnebo.com 🙂

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Business Intellegence (BI), Gunnebo Business Solutions, Machine Learning (ML), Microsoft Azure

Microsoft LEAP: Looking into the future

Cloud Computing have become one of the most profitable industries in the world and cloud will remain a very hot topic for a foreseeable future. There is a huge competition among cloud service providers to win customers by providing the best services to their customers. Cloud service providers invest a lot of money on inventions. Thus, cloud services make most of the trends in the future IT industry. Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS is one of the leaders in innovation in their respective fields.

Data centers around the world

As the demand for cloud services rapidly increasing in all parts of the world, establishing data centers around the globe becomes a necessity. Azure has understood this well and expecting to expand its service by constructing data center regions in many parts of the world.

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From news.microsoft.com article about Project Natick’s Northern Isles datacenter at a Naval Group facility in Brest, France. Photo by Frank Betermin

The world is divided into geographies defined by geopolitical boundaries or country borders. These geographies define the data residency boundaries for customer data. Azure geographies respect the requirements within geographical boundaries. It ensures data residency, compliance, sovereignty, and resiliency. Azure regions are organized into geographies. A region is defined by a bandwidth and latency envelope. Azure owns the greatest number of global regions among cloud providers. This is a great benefit for businesses who seek to bring their applications closer to users around the world while protecting data residency.

The Two Major Azure’s Global Expansion of Cloud Services

Two of the most expansion that Microsoft Azure has incorporated to improve its service updates includes the following:

Expansion of Virtual Networks and Virtual Machines Support.

With utility virtual machines like A8 and A9 that provides the advantages of operations like rapid processors and interconnection amidst more virtual cores, there can now be the seamless configuration of virtual networks for specific geographical locations and regions.

This feature gives more room for optimal operations, cloud services, complex engineering design video encoding and a lot more.

Incorporation of Azure Mobile Services, and its Expansion to Offline Features

Even with a disconnected service, this operation makes it possible for applications to operate effectively on offline features.  Furthermore, is that this extends the incorporation of Azure cloud services to apps on various platforms, including Android and iOS on mobile phones.

Then there are Availability Zones. It is the 3 rd level in the Azure network hierarchy.

Availability zones are physically separated locations. They exist inside regions. They are made up of one or more data centers. Constructing availability zones is not easier. They are not just data centers, they need advanced networking, independent power, cooling etc. The primary purpose of Availability zones is to helps customers to run mission-critical applications.

You will have following benefits with Azure availability zones

  • Better protection for your data – you won’t lose your data due to the destruction of a data center
  • High- availability, better performance, more resources for businesses to continuity.
  • 99% SLA on virtual machines

Open source technology

Microsoft took some time to understand the value of Open source technologies. But now they are doing really fine. With .Net Core and the .Net Standard, Microsoft has done a major commitment to open source. Looking at GitHub alone, Microsoft is one of the largest contributors to open source.

Redmond, Washington USA - 4th June 2018 Microsoft confirms its acquiring GitHub
“Microsoft is a developer-first company, and by joining forces with GitHub we strengthen our commitment to developer freedom, openness and innovation,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft.

With  .Net core 3.0, Microsoft introduced many features that will enable developers to create high security fast productive web and cloud applications. .NET Core 3 is a major update which adds support for building Windows desktop applications using Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Windows Forms, and Entity Framework 6 (EF6). ASP.NET Core 3 enables client-side development with Razor Components. EF Core 3 will have support for Azure Cosmos DB. It will also include support for C# 8 and .NET Standard 2.1 and much more.

Mixed reality and AI perceptions

Mixed reality tries to reduce the gap between our imagination and reality. With AI, it is about to change the way how we see the world. It seems to become the primary source of entertainment. Although Mixed reality got popular in the Gaming industry, now you can see its applications in other industries as well. The global mixed reality market is booming. That’s why the biggest names in tech are battling it out to capture the MR market. All major tech products have introduced MR devices such as Meta2 handsets, GoogleGlass 2.0, Microsoft HoloLens.

Mixed reality and AI perception is a result of the cooperation of many advanced technologies. This technology stack includes Natural Language interaction, Object recognition, real-world perception, real-world visualization, Contextual data access, Cross-device collaboration, and cloud streaming.

Factory Chief Engineer Wearing VR Headset Designs Engine Turbine on the Holographic Projection Table. Futuristic Design of Virtual Mixed Reality Application

As I said earlier, Although the Gaming industry was the first to adopt mixed reality, now MR applications are more used in other industries. Let’s visit some of the industries and see how Mixed reality has transformed them and what benefits those industries get from mixed reality and AI perception.

You can see tech giants such as SAAB, NETSCAPE, DataMesh, using mixed reality in the manufacturing industry. According to research, mixed reality helps to increase worker productivity by 84%, improve collaboration among cross-functional teams by 80% and improve customer service interaction by 80%. You may wonder How mixed reality was able to achieve it? What it offers to the manufacturing industry. There are many applications of Mixed reality in manufacturing, following is a small list of them.

  • Enhanced Predictive Maintenance
  • Onsite Contextual Data Visualization
  • Intuitive IOT Digital Twin Monitoring
  • Remote collaboration and assistance
  • Accelerated 3D modeling and product design
  • Responsive Simulation training

Retail, Healthcare, Engineering, Architecture are some other industries that use mixed reality heavily.

Quantum revolution

Quantum computing could be the biggest thing in the future. It is a giant leap forward from today’s technology. It has the potential to alter our industrial, academic societal and economic landscapes forever.  You will see these massive implications nearly every industry including energy, healthcare, smart materials, and environmental system. Microsoft is taking a unique revolutionary approach to quantum with its Quantum Development Kit.

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Picture from cloudblogs.microsoft.com article about the potential of quantum computing

Microsoft can be considered as the only one who took quantum computing seriously in the commercial world. They have a quantum dream team which is formed by the greatest minds in physics, mathematics, computer science, and engineering to provide cutting-edge quantum innovation. Their quantum solution integrates seamlessly with Azure. They have taken a scalable topological approach towards quantum computing which helps to harness superior qubits. These superior qubits can perform complex computations with high accuracy at a lower cost.

There are three important features in Quantum development kit which makes it the go-to Quantum computing solution.

It introduces its own language, Q#. Q# created only for quantum programming. It has general programming features such as operators, native types and other abstractions.  Q# can easily integrate with Visual Studio and VS code which makes Q# feature rich. Q# is interoperable with the Python programming language. With the support of enterprise-grade tools, you can easily work on any OS windows, macOS, or Linux.

Quantum development kit provides a simulated environment which greatly supports optimizing the codes. This is very different from other quantum computing platforms which still exist in a kind of crude level. This simulation environment also helps you to debug your code, set breakpoints, estimates costs, and many other things.

As we discussed earlier, Microsoft has become the main contributor in the open source world. They provide Open source license for libraries and samples. They have tried a lot to make quantum computing easier. A lot of training materials are presented to attract developers to into quantum programming realm. The open source license is a great encouragement for developers to use the Quantum development kit in their applications while contributing to the Q# community.

Cloud services will shape the future of the IT industry. Quantum computing, Open source technologies, Mixed reality will play a great role in it.

This is my last day in Redmond, but I really look forward to coming again next year! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at bjorn.nostdahl@gunnebo.com

Business Intellegence (BI), DevOps, Gunnebo Business Solutions, Methodology, OpenID Connect

Microsoft LEAP: Deploying for the cloud

The second day of Microsoft LEAP we focused on Deploying for the Cloud. Deploying applications in the cloud and offering Software, Platform and Infrastructure as a Service are hot topics at the moment (Well, it has been a hot topic for some time now). Choosing a good cloud provider is a very important decision to make in this process. Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS are two of the leading cloud service providers. Since this article is based on my visit to Redmond and the LEAP keynotes, I will be looking at some of the services Azure provides.

DevOps with Microsoft Azure

Jessica Deen, the Deen of DevOps, had a great session on how DevOps is about people, process, and products. Getting it all right requires effort, but the benefits to your organization and customers can be huge. The aim of DevOps is to merge Developments, Operations and Quality Assurance for continuous delivery. DevOps is not a process or a job role. It is a total culture. You live in it. Your application lives in it.

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Why DevOps was created? How DevOps increase the profit of a company? DevOps mostly focus on three main areas: Reducing human errors, reduce downtime and increase productivity. With proper DevOps processes you can reduce costs and increase productivity.

There are 3 main sections in DevOps. Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, and Continuous learning and monitoring. Azure has a very broad ecosystem to support that. There are 5 main tools in Azure DevOps ecosystem. Those are:

  • Azure Boards
  • Azure Pipelines
  • Azure Repos
  • Azure Test Plans
  • Azure Artifacts

You can track all the development stages, from idea to release, with Azure Boards. Azure Boards gives you Kanban boards, backlogs, team dashboards, and custom reporting to track all works. This helps to keep your team aligned with all the code changes throughout the development life cycle. Azure Pipelines are available for Linux, Windows, and MacOS. It supports any language. You can build, test and deploy apps written from Java, Net, PHP, NodeJS, C/C++, Ruby, Android, iOS etc. Also, it is easily extensible. With Azure Pipelines, you can easily build and push images to container registries like docker hub and Aure container Registry.

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Azure is integrated with GitHub now, and with Azure Repos, now you can have Unlimited private Git repo hosting and support for TFVC that scales from a hobby project to the world’s largest Git repositories. Azure Test Plan is expected to give you end-to-end traceability. You can Run tests and log defects from your browser. Track and assess quality throughout your testing lifecycle. Finally, with Azure Artifacts, you can Create and share Maven, npm, and NuGet package feeds from public and private sources – fully integrated into CI/CD pipelines.

Vulnerabilities and Azure Monitor

Barry Dorrans, author of “Beginning ASP.NET Security” had a great session on the vulnerabilities of applications. OWASP illustrates that developers keep making the same mistakes over and over again, but what about more esoteric vulnerabilities. Actually, Microsoft releases a report called Microsoft Bulletin about their vulnerabilities. Microsoft has particularly mentioned about 8 vulnerabilities and their actions and process to fix them in one of their latest conferences. Some of them are:

  1. Hash DoS
  2. Padding Oracle
  3. SharePoint ViewState RCE
  4. Exchange RCE
  5. Infinite Regex DoS

It’s not the time for a detailed study of them. But it’s good to have some understanding of it. Let’s discuss a couple of them.

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Hash DoS is a denial of service attack caused parsing to form inputs. Let’s take an example to understand it. Assume a scenario where all form fields with A would go into slot A. To get a value back you go to the slot and look through everything. The more A fields there are the longer it takes. If you can force everything into a single slot then lookups will take more and more CPU which leads to DoS. Microsft advice not to use user inputs as dictionaries unless the user input is a string or a Hash Code for the user input is strong and you implement a session key. In the Padding Oracle, there will be a cryptographic attack to disclose information. You can avoid it by Not exposing padding oracles and Not returning detailed errors.

Azure Monitor service gives you full visibility across your App & your Infrastructure Health. Catherine Wang and Michael Milirud took us through how Azure Monitoring helps us discovering and fix issues with Diagnostics and Analytics tools. That’s not all. It tracks KPIs and proactively optimizes end-user experience. It is built around three concepts.

  • Unified Monitoring – A common platform for all metrics, logs, and another monitoring telemetry.
  • Data-Driven Insights – Advanced diagnostics and analytics powered by machine learning capabilities
  • Partner Integration – the Rich ecosystem of popular DevOps, issue management, SIEM, and ITSM tools

Power BI

Sergei Gundorov took us through a great keynote on Business Decisions and reminded us how most decisions are made from data. If you have better ways to analyze and present data, you can make better decisions. Microsoft introduced Power BI for business analytics. It is intended to be for both small and big businesses. But Power BI is not just a self-service tool for business analysts. Power BI has introduced many tools which enable you to analyze and visualize data very quickly. A striking feature of Power BI is its Ability to create and share reports.

With the introduction of Power BI embedded in Azure, now you can integrate power BI capabilities with your cloud application ever so smoothly. It drastically simplifies creating reports, visuals, dashboards in your app. Meanwhile, Power BI Embedded API allows developers to customize how intelligence is added to their applications.

Investor analyzing stock market report and financial dashboard with business intelligence (BI), with key performance indicators (KPI).png

Let’s see how Power BI Embedded have made integration easier. Power BI contents can be embedded in any application. It relies on web standards such as HTML5 and JavaScript. It works in web applications, mobile applications, and even thick client applications. SDK resources support many development platforms such as C#, JavaScript, TypeScript.

We discussed DevOps, Monitoring and Power BI here. There are more to add. Deploying your application in a good cloud service provider will make life easier. This article intended to give you an explanation about the current trends in the cloud world. Particularly, how Microsoft has improved their cloud business. There are other cloud services who provide similar functionalities. For example, Google and Amazon that also have a huge set of services.  I look forward to the next LEAP sessions, and as always – If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at bjorn.nostdahl@gunnebo.com