Microsoft Azure Rolls Out Improved Search and New Hybrid Test Environments

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Azure Search will now deliver more relevant results to users with ‘tag boosting’

Microsoft Azure has rolled out more personalised search features for its ‘search-as-a-service’ offering and announced new hybrid cloud test environments.

Azure Search, which launched as a preview in August last year, has now got the capability of ranking search results based on the parameters set by the developers.

Announcing the features in a blog post, Liam Cavanagh, senior program manager of Microsoft Azure Search, said: “When users go to your application and use search to find data, you want to give them a relevant response quickly. The definition of “relevant” depends largely on the nature of your application and your users.

“There’s one scenario that can’t be modeled in the current implementation of scoring profiles: boosting based on personalised data. Let’s say you have customers that purchase items from you regularly. For each customer, you track their top 3 or 4 brands they buy the most often. Nowazure what you’d like to do is to boost documents in search results when those documents represent products of the preferred brands. Note that this is contextual; each user would have a different set of top-K brands they prefer.

“In our experimental API (2014-10-20-Preview), we’re introducing a new scoring function called “tag” to handle this scenario.”

The new tag scenario improves productivity because it fetches more relevant results from the go. Cavanagh gave an example of its usage in an e-commerce environment. He illustrated: “You could use the purchase history of your customers to produce tags for each of them, you could use machine learning/clustering techniques to group and tag them based on what they’ve put in their shopping carts, or even manually tag them.”

The function is already available in all services. It’s only accessible using the experimental 2014-10-20-Preview API version because Azure is still collecting feedback on the approach.

Hybrid cloud environments

Also announced was Microsoft’s publishing of documents on four new hybrid cloud test environments. With these new topics, you can create dev/test environments or proof-of-concept configurations for hybrid cloud-based IT workloads. You can also use these environments to experiment with Azure features.

Joe Davies, senior content publisher at Azure, said: “These environments use your local Internet connection and one of your public IP addresses and step you through setting up a functioning, cross-premises Azure virtual network. When complete, you can begin performing application development, experimenting with simplified IT workloads, and gauge the performance of a site-to-site VPN connection relative to your location on the Internet.”

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