Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: AI Is As Core To Digital Transformation As Cloud


Microsoft is creating an AI supercomputer through the Azure cloud platform

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella has championed machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) as core component to the future of digital transformation in businesses.

Fleshing out Microsoft’s well-established ‘mobile first, cloud first’ strategy, which involves providing access to Office tools and data from any device via the Azure cloud platform, Nadella highlighted how smart agents such as chatbots will become increasingly use by companies both internally and externally as a means to surface data

“Every business is going to have a bot interface,” he said at a cloud-focused Microsoft event in Dublin. Nadella championed Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana as one such smart agent that he claimed is able to boost productivity for workers by pulling relevant data needed for certain tasks from across Microsoft’s productivity and business software.

Nadella added that Microsoft also has a bot framework and multiple application programming interfaces (APIs) so that the Redmond company “makes it possible for any developer out there to build these next generation applications”. These APIs provide code for plugging in smart features like image and voice recognition features into third-party software.

Azure and AI

tay-ai-microsoftTo bring more AI into Microsoft’s strategy, Nadella drew attention to the company’s efforts to build out Azure as a platform for machine learning and intelligent applications.

“We’re building out Azure as the first AI supercomputer. What I mean by that is not only do you have the capacity when it comes to CPUs and your ability to run any compute job using virtual machines whether they’re Linux or Windows or containers, it is also supporting some of the best GPU compute capacity. Because when you think about machine learning, especially deep learning neural nets, it turns out GPUs are much better at performance and scale for those algorithms,” said Nadella.

“So this AI supercomputer gives you at the core infrastructure level amazing capacity to be able to transform your applications through the power of AI.”

Azure also has field-programmable gate array capabilities which allows AI developers to take their algorithms, developed on Microsoft’s own neural network frameworks or open source code such as TensorFlow or Café, and run them on the silicon that makes up Azure’s high-capacity cloud infrastructure.

Business intelligence with the cloud

brain computing - Shutterstock - © agsandrew“Ultimately the cloud is about powering the next generation of applications,” said Nadella, noting how companies under taking digital transformation strategies cannot simply put things in the cloud just to shift from old to new infrastructure. But instead need to ensure they are harnessing the data they collect and have access to thorough various digital applications.

“It’s no longer the case that you just build systems, or you just deploy systems,” he said “You are creating you own digital feedback loop.”

This feedback loop involves using data gleaned from across Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics through smart tools such as Delve, which gives companies access to information on which to base predictions and take actions upon in order better handle customer interactions, product development and general productivity.

“That is really at the core of what the cloud enables,” added Nadella.

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