Predictably, New Azure Machine Learning Looks Forward

Machine learning has come to Microsoft's cloud. On Monday, the tech giant announced the launch of Azure Machine Learning.

Machine learning uses historical data to create a model that can be used to predict future events. The new Azure-based offering is a fully managed cloud service for constructing predictive analytics.

"In mere hours, with Azure ML, customers and partners can build data-driven applications to predict, forecast and change future outcomes -- a process that previously took weeks and months," Corporate Vice President Joseph Sirosh wrote Monday in a post on The Official Microsoft Blog.

Visual Workflows

The service starts in public preview next month, and is designed to integrate the capabilities of new analytics tools and new software developed for Xbox and Bing. Being in the cloud, it is of course accessible from anywhere and requires no start-up costs.

"Data scientists are in short supply, commercial software licenses can be expensive and popular programming languages for statistical computing have a steep learning curve," Sirosh said. Those obstacles can all be overcome by a cloud-based service, he said.

Tasks using machine learning can employ visual workflows and start-up templates, and developers can use the service to publish APIs and Web services quickly. Azure ML also supports more than 300 packages that utilize the open-source R Project for statistical computing. Microsoft is expected to add support for the Python language, which is popular among data programmers.

As a case example, Microsoft cites Microsoft partner MAX451, which used the ML service during its private preview to help an unnamed large retailer decide which products its customers were most likely to buy next, using data from physical stores and e-commerce purchases. This information allowed the retailer to pre-stock its inventory with those products.

Forecasting Demand

OSISoft used Azure ML in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University to detect faults in real...

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