Microsoft Offers Azure Tools, Services For AI, Blockchain

Microsoft has offered a number of new options for its Azure cloud platform to help businesses utilise both artificial intelligence (BI) and blockchain.

The release of the new tools just before its annual software developer conference in Seattle next week.

It should be noted that Azure has been offering blockchain capabilities for a number of years now. But now Microsoft with Azure Blockchain Service, is offering an essentially fully-managed blockchain service that seeks to simplify the “formation, management, and governance of consortium blockchain networks.”

Blockchain service

The idea is that Microsoft is hoping to make it easier for businesses to develop blockchain uses.

“With a few simple clicks, users can create and deploy a permissioned blockchain network and manage consortium policies using an intuitive interface in the Azure portal,” blogged Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft Azure.

“Built-in governance enables developers to add new members, set permissions, monitor network health and activity, and execute governed, private interactions through integrations with Azure Active Directory,” he wrote.

As part of this, Microsoft has also partnered up with J.P. Morgan to make Quorum the first ledger available in Azure Blockchain Service.

Quorum is J.P. Morgan’s Ethereum-based distributed ledger protocol, developed to provide financial institutions with a permissioned implementation of Ethereum.

“Because it’s built on the popular Ethereum protocol, which has the world’s largest blockchain developer community, Quorum is a natural choice,” wrote Russinovich. “It integrates with a rich set of open-source tools while also supporting confidential transactions, something our enterprise customers require.

“Quorum customers like Starbucks, Louis Vuitton, and our own Xbox Finance team can now use Azure Blockchain Service to quickly expand their networks with lower costs, shifting their focus from infrastructure management to application development and business logic,” he added.

The other main announcement for Azure this week concerns artificial intelligence.

Azure AI

Like blockchain, Azure has had AI tools for a number of years now, but now it is hoping to make AI “real” for every developer and business with Azure AI.

“With Azure AI, our goal is to empower organisations to apply AI across the spectrum of their business to engage customers, empower employees, optimise operations and transform products,” blogged Eric Boyd, corporate VP of Azure AI.

“Azure Machine Learning service is designed to accelerate the end-to-end machine learning lifecycle,” he wrote. “With Azure Machine Learning, developers and organisations can quickly and easily build, train, and deploy models anywhere from the intelligent cloud to the intelligent edge, as well as manage their models with integrated (CI/CD) tooling.”

To help in this regard, Microsoft is previewing an ‘automated machine learning user interface’ that enables business domain experts to train machine learning models with just a few clicks.

There is also a ‘zero-code, visual interface’ that enables users new to machine learning to build, train, and deploy models easily using drag and drop capabilities.

And ‘Azure Machine Learning notebooks’ will provide developers and data scientists a code-first machine learning experience.

There were other developments around Azure knowledge mining and AI apps and agents from the software giant.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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