Azure Machine Learning (Azure ML)

Azure ML
Azure Machine Learning

The fact that computers can now see, hear, and learn is enough to suggest that we are probably already in the future that was talked about for decades in the past. The world is gradually molding around machine language. Computers do not need to be taught how to perform complex tasks anymore. Be it image recognition or translating a webpage for us, computers are now learning how to do it themselves. 

AI and machine learning are the buzzwords we get to hear a lot around us, from TV to social gatherings. Anyone who has shopped on eBay or in fact, any other online shopping platform has probably experienced buying more than they needed. If you have been blaming yourself for impulse buying, well, you are not the only one to blame. These platforms use a complex set of algorithms to suggest products based on what you’re currently looking at and what you purchased in the past. All of these algorithms fall under the broad term of machine learning.

Thus, machine learning (ML) refers to the ability of computers to make decisions without the need for a human to provide explicit instructions. This allows computers to pattern-match complex situations and predicts outcomes on their basis. Microsoft Azure ML is no different in that aspect.

Azure machine learning is a cloud-based environment that is used to train, automate, manage, and track ML models. Read this article for a quick guide on Azure ML and find out how it fine-tunes results from training data.

What is Machine Learning?

Artificial Intelligence is one of the most significant technological leaps in recent history. AI has three fundamental pillars, which are natural language processing, machine learning, and neutral networks. While all three have profound importance, machine learning in particular has changed the world around us by leaps and bounds.

Simply described, machine learning is a data science technique that uses available data to forecast future results and trends. It helps computers learn without being explicitly programmed to do so.

Built on complex mathematical and statistical structure, the algorithms of ML are designed to mimic how a human brain works. Machine learning comprises of the following skillset:

  • Mathematics
  • Scientific computing
  • Statistics

For almost every type of computing, algorithms are used. While they can be pretty complex and difficult to understand you can best describe them with a sample command like, ‘If situation A takes place, its resulting outcome or behavior will be B.’ Therefore, machine learning is when a machine uses an algorithm and improves it by learning the way it interacts with more data.

The forecasts and future outcomes that machine learning suggests are what makes apps and devices smarter. For instance, when your credit card is swiped, the machine language compares this transaction to the historical transactions in the database to detect fraud. Similarly, as your robot vacuum cleaner cleans a room, machine learning enables it to decide if the job is completed or not. 

What is Azure Machine Learning?

Azure Machine learning or Azure ML is a cloud-based analytical service to create and manage machine learning solutions. It is a service for data scientists and engineers to optimize existing data processing and model development skills and frameworks. This machine learning service also allows them to use cloud memory to scale and distribute their workloads.

One of the most commonly used Azure ML tool is Microsoft Azure Machine Learning Studio (MAML). It is an online tool for building ML models. What’s different about this tool is that instead of using ML algorithms in languages like Python or R, MAML applies the most commonly used ML algorithms as modules. The best thing about this alternate option is that it allows users to build learning models graphically with the help of their dataset.

The MAML allows you to drag and drop datasets and analysis modules. These can then be connected in an interactive canvas to create an experiment. It also allows you to edit the experiment anytime, which means you can save it and run it again. You also have the option to turn your training experiment into a predictive one so that you can publish it as web service. With your predictive experiment available online, anyone can access it and use it anytime.

The Major Components of an Experiment

An experiment in MAML consists of a dataset from where data can be imported to analytical modules. This is where you can connect the data with modules to create a predictive analysis model. A valid experiment on MAML would have the following characteristics:

  • Each experiment comprises of at least one dataset and one module.
  • The datasets can be connected only to modules while modules can be connected to datasets or other modules.
  • All input ports should have some kind of connection to the data flow.
  • All the parameters required for each module must be in place.

Benefits of Azure ML for Machine Learning Solutions

Azure machine learning is a very user-friendly less restrictive service for machine learning solutions. Azure tools use a good amount of data and algorithms to provide accurate forecasts and valid predictions. Not only does it makes importing training data a breeze, but it also fine-tunes results on the basis of that data

Here are the most significant benefits of Azure ML for machine learning solutions:

Ease and Flexibility

The Azure machine learning service by Microsoft Azure is a pay as you go service. Azure ML eliminates the need for businesses to buy or set up big and complex hardware or software. All they have to do is purchase the Azure ML services and they can start developing their machine learning applications.

Businesses can easily execute their machine learning development through the Azure ML Studio. It allows the users to drag and drop components instead of code development or configuration of properties. It also helps businesses build and experiment with advanced analytics on the basis of available data.

Microsoft Azure provides an incredible environment for the development of machine learning solutions. Even small and medium businesses can avail this service to start gaining its remarkable benefits with ease and flexibility.  

Acceleration of the Machine Learning Cycle

The Azure machine learning tools put the machine learning cycle fast-pace for developers and data scientists. Building, training, and deploying machine learning models becomes much faster. It makes the process of marketing and fostering team collaboration with MLOps—DevOps for machine learning more efficient.

Responsible ML Solutions

Azure ML is a great tool for businesses and data scientists to access responsible ML solutions. This helps in understanding and controlling data, models, and processes. It explains model behavior during training and brings fairness to the process by detecting and eliminating model bias. Azure ML provides data privacy throughout the machine learning cycle with differential privacy techniques. It also uses confidential computing to protect machine learning assets. Finally, it also brings the element of accountability by maintaining audit trails and using model datasheets

Boost Productivity with Supported Algorithms

Another great thing about Azure ML is that offers readily available and commonly used algorithms. The configuration of these algorithms involves simply dragging and dropping. The user does not need to have knowledge of data science or expertise in algorithms. All you need to have is the knowledge of when to use them. Some of the algorithms also enable the user to make real-time predictions or forecasts. Moreover, there is no restriction on importing a specific amount of training data, in fact, you can fine-tune your data pretty easily. Not only do these features of Azure ML save a lot of cost but they also boost productivity and revenue.

Built-in Support

Microsoft Azure offers a good amount of reference material like quick starts, tutorials, references, and lots of examples. This helps businesses or any other users to easily build, deploy, manage and access the machine learning solutions effectively.

Purchasing Azure ML services means you will get built-in support for open-source tools and frameworks. This makes machine learning model training and inference a breeze. Popular frameworks like PyTorch, TensorFlow, etc. are available so you can choose the tools that best suit your needs. While languages like Python and R makes the process more efficient, ONNX Runtime can accelerate inference across cloud and edge devices.

Azure Machine Learning Services

The Microsoft Azure Machine Learning suite comes with a wide range of tools and services, some of which are:

Azure ML Workbench

The Azure ML Workbench is an end-user Windows or macOS application that deals with the primary tasks of a machine learning project. These tasks include importing and preparing data, developing a model, handling experiments, and deployment of models in various environments. This tool works with major third-party tools like Git for version control. It also works with Jupyter Notebook for data preparation, statistical modeling, and graphical representation of data.

Microsoft Machine Learning Libraries for Apache Spark (MMLSpark) 

Another handy tool that comes with Azure ML is the MMLSpark. It offers a set of tools that integrate Spark pipelines with related machine learning tools. This includes Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit and OpenCV library. These ML libraries make the process of developing machine learning models that involve image and text data more efficient.

Azure Machine Learning Studio

Azure ML Studio is one of the most incredible machine learning tools around. It is a visual, drag-and-drop tool that helps users build and deploy predictive analysis models without needing coding or configuration.

Azure Machine Learning Model Management 

Among the many services available in the Microsoft Azure machine learning suite, ML model management is of significant importance. It helps the user track and manages model versions. This includes registering and storing models, processing models into Docker image files, registering the images in their Docker registry in Azure, and lastly, deploying those images to a wide range of computing environments.

Azure Machine Learning Experimentation Service

Azure ML Experimentation Service works in conjunction with Workbench to provide project management, access control, and version control through Git. This service particularly supports the execution of machine learning experiments to build and train models. 

The experimentation service mostly focuses on the construction of virtualized environments. This allows users to adequately separate and operating models. It also records details of each run to support the model development process. The experimentation then deploys models in a local Docker container, in a Docker container in a remote virtual machine, and through a scale-out Spark cluster that runs within Azure.

Visual Studio Code Tools 

This Azure ML service is an extension of Visual Studio Code (VS Code), which is basically a desktop source code editor for Windows, macOS, and Linux. This service allows users to create scripts and gather metrics for Azure Machine Learning experiments.

Azure ML Deployment Options

The Microsoft Azure ML tools allow data scientists and developers to create and deploy models in the Azure cloud and in the edge devices with Azure loT edge computing. Aside from these tools, Azure also has various high-performance deployment options like:

Microsoft Machine Learning Server

This Azure ML deployment option offers an enterprise-class server especially for distributed, highly parallel workloads developed in languages such as Python or R. This deployment option is great for tasks like high-performance analytics, machine learning, and data analysis, and runs on Linux, Windows, Hadoop, and Apache Spark.

Azure Data Science Virtual Machine

The Azure Data Science Virtual Machines are designed for data science projects under Windows Server, Ubuntu Linux, and OpenLogic CentOS. This deployment option includes data science and development tools. A user or business can use this option to build data analytics and machine learning applications. Developers are able to use Azure Data Science VMs from Azure’s Experimentation or Model tools.

Virtual Machines with GPUs

The Azure Virtual Machines used for running machine learning projects usually use Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) instead of the conventional option of CPUs. This is mainly because GPUs are more efficient at handling complex mathematical and parallel processing. This complex processing is at the core of rendering images efficiently, a feature that is preferred for artificial intelligence and machine learning computations.

Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) 

FPGA chips are another deployment option that can be programmed using machine learning models. This allows the models to operate at computer hardware speeds and substantially improves the performance of machine learning and data analytics projects. Currently, FPGA services are limited to supporting projects in TensorFlow and ResNet50-based image classification and recognition, but it has the potential to grow and support a wide range of other projects.

The Scope of Azure Machine Learning in the Future 

Not long ago, AI had been the stuff of science fiction. Fast forward a few years and we are adding intelligence to virtually any app or website available today. In fact, almost all of your favorite apps and websites already use some form of artificial intelligence.

These last few years have also shown a marked shift in content toward data science, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML). Microsoft Azure is one of the many platforms as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution by Microsoft. The cloud services of Azure ML have made computing remarkably affordable, especially for those who lack appropriate computing devices or professional expertise in machine learning tools. Now, all you need is efficient network access and a browser to get started and going.

From virtual assistants to chatbots on business websites, Artificial Intelligent (AI) and machine learning hold significant importance in our daily lives. Various reports suggest that the AI-based advanced analytics solutions market is likely to reach $70 million in the coming years.

Therefore, with the fairly simple ways of drag and drop datasets, algorithms, and implementation of web services, Azure Machine Learning seems to be a must-have for business owners who want growth.

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Bottom Line

Microsoft Azure ML is a comprehensive easy-to-use solution for both new and expert data scientists and developers. The superior usability of the tool and its integration with different sources like Python and R, makes it one of the most effective options available for ML solutions. Not only does it have the potential to allow first-time users to work on the related analytics but it can also provide you with opportunities in different positions. 

A lot of terms that Azure ML tools use are related to statistics and may be difficult to understand for new developers. This is where the bulk of the learning curve of Azure ML lies. Therefore, if you really want to up your game in Azure ML, learning the jargon of Data Science would probably a good idea.

With Azure machine learning, you easily process large amounts of data and find solutions, leaving no doubt in the fact that Azure ML has become a game-changer in the data modeling world.