Microsoft unveils AI development tools at Connect(); 2017

Microsoft has unveiled several new AI development tools during its annual Connect(); developer conference.

The tagline for this year’s event was ‘Putting AI into the hands of developers’ and it’s clear that Microsoft is working hard to be a leader in this emerging space.

“We’re delivering more open source data technologies, making AI easier to consume, and helping organizations streamline their journey to the cloud,” wrote Rohan Kumar, General Manager of the Database Systems Group at Microsoft, in a blog post.

Starting with Visual Studio, a new package aptly called ‘Visual Studio Tools for AI’ will allow developers to get started with a new project using a machine learning engine of their choice. Microsoft’s own CNTK framework is naturally supported, but also third-party alternatives such as TensorFlow (which received a big update this month.)

Once the machine learning model is prepared, the package will enable developers to ship their code to Azure Batch AI — a new cloud service providing an environment for machine learning models to be trained.

Within this environment, developers can train AI models on sample data. This will help to ensure their accuracy before deploying into real-world scenarios.

Once satisfied with the results, Microsoft is providing developers with several new deployment tools dependent on the platform being targeted. AI Toolkit for Azure IoT Edge, for example, would be useful for a company building an AI-powered mobile app.

Further announcements

Other useful announcements for developers in general include a managed version of MariaDB, and Azure Databricks — a service based on the Apache Spark analytics engine.

“There’s a large base of Microsoft Azure customers looking for a high-performance analytics platform based on Spark – and Databricks is already the leading Cloud platform for Spark,” says Ali Ghodsi, CEO at Databricks. “These organisations will be able to simplify Big Data and AI with Azure Databricks.”

There’s also a new tool for Visual Studio called ‘Live Share’ which enables multiple programmers to collaborate on writing, editing, and debugging code in a single view.

“Rather than just screen sharing, Visual Studio Live Share lets developers share their full project context with a bi-directional, instant and familiar way to jump into opportunistic, collaborative programming,” wrote Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise Group at Microsoft, in a blog post.

“At Microsoft, we’re laser-focused on delivering tools and services that make developers more productive, helping developers create in the open, and putting AI into the hands of every developer so they unleash the power of data and reimagine possibilities that will improve our world.”

Are you impressed with Microsoft’s new AI tools? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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