Microsoft Azure gets new tools for edge computing and machine learning

Announced at the Microsoft Ignite conference today, these new features are designed to streamline the collection, processing and analysis of large volumes of data.

Why Azure might be a huge force in the public cloud for years to come

Microsoft has upgraded its Azure cloud computing platform to make it easier for companies to gather data using edge devices and extract information using machine learning.

Announced at the Microsoft Ignite conference today, these new features are designed to streamline the collection, processing and analysis of large volumes of data, with new services including:

Big data and machine learning

New tools for Azure Machine Learning

Azure Machine Learning is an existing service that helps data scientists and developers build and train AI models more rapidly, and which streamlines their deployment to an edge appliance or the cloud.

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The new features include tools to automate the process of building a machine learning model, by helping to identify the most efficient algorithms to make a prediction and optimize the performance of the trained model. There's also new hardware-accelerated models for FPGAs, and a Python SDK that makes Azure Machine Learning services accessible from popular IDEs and notebooks.

Azure SQL DB Hyperscale

Also new is Azure SQL DB Hyperscale, a highly scalable service tier that adapts to a workload's needs, auto-scaling up to 100 TB per database, that is available from October 1st.

Azure Data Explorer

Out in public preview, the service aims to accelerate how rapidly insights can be gained from large volumes of event data, allowing users to interactively interrogate and analyze the data in "near real time" to spot patterns and anomalies.

Microsoft says the fast indexing and querying service is optimized for ad-hoc data exploration and analytics of log and telemetry data from websites, applications and IoT devices.

Azure Cosmos DB upgrades

Azure Cosmos DB has been updated to make it easier to build globally distributed apps.

Multi-master support is now generally available in Azure Cosmos DB, providing high levels of availability and single-digit millisecond latency, with built-in flexible conflict resolution support to simplify development of distributed applications.

The database also gains a new Cassandra API, and a Reserved Capacity feature that enables customers to reduce costs by up to 65 percent.

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Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise

A service that allows businesses to more easily build, customize, test and deploy virtual agents.

Based on the Microsoft Bot Framework and Azure Cognitive Services Language Understanding service, Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise is available to Microsoft customers by invite only.

IoT and Edge computing

Microsoft also revealed new services designed to add intelligent capabilities to low-power devices at the edge of networks, giving these machines the capability to screen and analyze data.

Azure Sphere

The new service, designed to secure and power IoT devices at the edge of networks, is now available in public preview.

Azure Sphere aims to secure connected microcontrollers -- of which there are 9 billion shipping every year -- at both the board level and network level.

Azure Sphere has three components. The first is customized microcontroller units (MCUs) for IoT devices, which are authenticated using certificates encoded in on-board chips.

The second component is the Azure Sphere OS, which runs on the IoT devices and helps secure and authenticate the hardware, and which is based on a custom-version of the Linux kernel.

The third is the Azure Sphere Security Service, a cloud-based offering that keeps devices patched with the latest security updates and detects threats to these connected devices for 10 years after their rollout.

Azure Sphere-certified development kits are now available.

Azure Data Box Edge

This is a physical network appliance, shipped by Microsoft, that sends data in and out of Azure and uses an FPGA to accelerate the rate at which it can run trained machine-learning models to analyze data.

The appliance, available as part of Azure Data Box, is designed to allow organizations to analyze, prune and otherwise process data before it is uploaded to the cloud.

Azure Data Box Edge is now available in public preview.

Azure Digital Twins

Microsoft says the new Azure Digital Twins platform will enable users "to create a comprehensive digital model of any physical environment" that will provide "a complete picture of the relationships and processes that connect people, places and devices".

The service will use Microsoft's Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge platforms and be available in public preview from October 15th.

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