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A Definitive Guide On Understanding Azure Machine Learning

Posted by Rajiv Dattani on 7/11/19 5:15 AM

Machine Learning

As a data science technique that permits predictive analysis, machine learning has brought about a major change in the way most organizations function. It has streamlined a wide array of computing processes and operations by employing data as the basic foundation upon which the success of various production systems can be built. Be it the evaluation of patterns, the discovery of trends, the measurement of outcomes, or the forecast of behaviors - machine learning has allowed business apps and devices to become smarter, without being limited by the need for extensive technical programming. 

However, the adoption and implementation of machine learning can often prove to be a highly challenging task. Collecting, collating, and assessing numeric data, which usually lies scattered among different organizational verticals, requires sophisticated training and statistical expertise. More so, the testing, scaling, management, and deployment of various machine learning models also need to be backed by targeted engineering and data science investments. In such a complex environment, the benefits that accrue from machine learning are sometimes lost in the maze of incapability, miscalculation, and underestimation. 

In order to resolve these issues, that persistently plague the industry, Microsoft has come up with Azure machine learning - a one-stop solution that promises competence, efficiency, and ease. 

What is Azure Machine Learning?

Azure machine learning is essentially a cloud computing service that is based on the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) regime. It allows organizations to create their own workflows using which a plethora of machine learning models can be trained, processed, automated, managed, tested, and deployed on a broad scale. 

Azure machine learning provides a comprehensive bouquet of services which carry numerous add-on benefits that arise from a cloud-based environment. It doesn't just enable its clients to construct data-driven applications, but, it also empowers them to make accurate and long-lasting predictions. Furthermore, this service harbors the potential of supporting numerous open-source technologies, which can be effectively employed to tackle multiple business challenges.

Which Tools Does Azure Machine Learning Employ?

The prominence and or effectiveness of Azure machine learning is primarily based on its ability to use a vast network of tools. These largely include: 

  • A software development kit that functions in a Python environment.
  • A command-line interface which automates learning & computing activities.
  • A visual studio code extension that helps write visual code narratives.
  • A drag-and-drop module which enables experimentation, testing, and deployment of machine learning models.
  • Jupyter notebooks that permit the creation and sharing of documents.
  • A visual interface which facilitates workflow without the specific need of writing any code.

With the aid of such tools, Azure simplifies the entire process of machine learning, thus equipping an organization to provide transparent and hassle-free technical solutions. 

How Does Azure Machine Learning Work?

To put it simply, Azure machine learning offers an interactive and real-time workspace within which a number of predictive analytics models can be built, tested, and iterated. All you have to do is use the drag-and-drop module to enter the collated data, connect it visually to create an experimental set, and finally publish it, so it can be easily accessed by the requisite clientele. 

In order to run this model workflow, Azure machine learning follows a five-step sequential order that pertains: 


 - Developing Python or visual interface based training scripts. 

 - Crafting and configuration of a compute target. 

 - Using the compute target to run the various training scripts. 

 - Saving the records of execution as workspace experiments. 

 2. Packaging

 - Determining if the run fulfilled its intended requirements. 

 - Registering the model that persists, in the online model registry. 

 3. Validation

 - Checking the current and historical runs for logged metrics. 

 - Evaluating if these metrics correspond with the desired outcome. 

 - If needed, looping back to the first step and iterating the old scripts. 

 4. Deployment

 - Developing a script that employs an appropriate machine learning model. 

 - Deploying this model in the form of a web service for end-to-end use. 

 5. Monitoring

 - Keeping a track of the deployed model for any kind of data drifts. 

 - Comparing the data sets derived from initial training and final inferences. 

 - If required, retraining the model with new scripts. 

The aforementioned process, in fact, can be better explained with the help of the following diagrammatic workflow: 


Why You Should Use Azure Machine Learning?

Although there are a multitude of reasons which justify the use of Azure machine learning, organizations should utilize this cloud computing solution for: 

  • Creating, training, tracking and deploying error-free machine learning models by using a wide range of open-source components, cloud-based packages, and visual interfaces.
  • Designing both code-free and code-first automated models which harness the cloud's computing power to conduct effective and advanced machine learning experiments.
  • Operationalizing the deployed models via Azure web services or other IoT devices while managing their ability to synchronize large quantities of data through software development kits.
  • Using algorithmic methodologies like classification, categorization, regression, and clustering to filter data, predict values, forecast returns, and estimate the characteristics of various variables.
  • Accessing data on any business device, without the constraints imposed by time and space, thus, permitting organizations to induce round-the-clock customer engagements and flexible work arrangements.
  • Harnessing the power of other similar tools like Power BI and R, so visualization capabilities can be enhanced, and multiple integrative opportunities can be availed.

Owing to its ease of implementation and its ability to generate advanced analytics, Azure machine learning - a pay-as-you-go service - has been able to carve a distinctive niche for itself in the modern software industry.  

To Sum Up

In an era where data has begun to develop an omnichannel presence, the need for machine learning has started growing by leaps and bounds. Whether you are shopping online, swiping your credit card, or performing a remote business operation, machine learning has enabled organizations to compare data sets, predict future patterns, and thereby, make well-informed decisions. This is why the expected impact of machine learning on the society as a whole has been pegged at a whopping 97% by Statista

However, with the competence and proficiency offered by Azure, the adoption and implementation of complex machine learning tools, techniques, and tactics have become much simpler, faster, and smarter. 

Topics: Microsoft Azure, Machine Learning

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