Azure Cognitive Services in containers is the smart way to go

{Cross posted from my post on Avanade}

Containers just got smarter.

That’s the news from Microsoft, which announced recently that Azure Cognitive Services now supports containers. The marriage of AI and containers is a technology story, of course, but it’s a potentially even bigger business story, one that affects where and how you can do business and gain competitive advantage.

First, the technology story
Containers aren’t new, of course. They’re an increasingly popular technology with a big impact on business. That’s because they boost the agility and flexibility with which a business can roll out new tools to employees and new products and services to customers.

With containers, a business can get software releases and changes out faster and more frequently, increasing its competitive advantage. Because containers abstract applications from their underlying operating systems and other services—like virtual machines abstracted from hardware—those applications can run anywhere: in the cloud, on a laptop, in a kiosk or in an intelligent Internet-of-Things (IoT) edge device in the field.

In many respects this frees up the application’s developer, who can focus on creating the best, most useful software for the business. With Microsoft’s announcement, that software can now more easily include object detection, vision recognition, text and language understanding.

At Avanade, we take containers a step further by including support for them in our modern engineering platform, a key part of our overall approach to intelligent IT. So, you can automate your creation and management of containers—including AI-enabled containers—for a faster, easier, more seamless DevOps process. You can take greater advantage of IoT capabilities and move technologies such as AI closer to the edge, where they can reduce latency and boost performance.

What AI containers do for business
And you can do much more, which is where the business story gets interesting. With the greater agility and adaptability that comes with container-based AI services, you can respond more quickly to new competition, regulatory environments and business models. That contrasts with the more limited responses that have been possible with traditional, cloud-based AI. 

For example, data sovereignty laws and GDPR requirements generally restrict the transfer of data to the cloud, where cloud-based cognitive services can interact with it. Now, with containers that support cognitive services, you can avoid those restrictions by running your services locally.

A retail bank might use containerized AI to identify customers, address their needs, process payments and offer additional services, boosting customer satisfaction and bank revenue—all without sending private financial data outside the region (or even outside the bank) in accordance with GDPR.

Similarly, regional medical centers and clinics subject to HIPAA privacy laws in the US can process protected information on site with containerized AI to cut patient wait times and deliver better health outcomes.

Or, think about limited-connectivity or disconnected environments—such as manufacturing shop floors, remote customer sites or oil rigs or tankers—that can’t count on accessing AI that resides in the always-on cloud. Previously, these sites might have had to batch their data to process it during narrow periods of cloud connectivity, with the delays greatly limiting the timeliness and usefulness of AI.

Now, these sites can combine IoT and AI to anticipate and respond to manufacturing disruptions before they occur, increasing safety, productivity and product quality while reducing errors and costs.

If you can’t bring your data to your AI, now you can bring your AI to your data. That’s the message of container-hosted AI and the modern engineering platform. Together, they optimize your ability to bring AI into environments where you can’t count on the cloud. Using AI where you couldn’t before makes innovative solutions possible—and innovative solutions deliver competitive advantage. 

Boost ROI and scale
If you’re already using Azure Cognitive Services, you’ve invested time and money to train the models that support your use cases. Because those models are now portable, you can take advantage of them in regulated, limited-connectivity and disconnected environments, increasing your return on that investment. 

You can also scale your use of AI with a combination of cloud- and container-based architectures. That enables you to apply the most appropriate architectural form for any given environment or use. At the same time, you’re deploying consistent AI technology across the enterprise, increasing reliability while decreasing your operating cost.

Keep in mind…

Here are three things to keep in mind as you think about taking advantage of this important news:

  1. Break the barriers between your data scientists and business creatives. Containerized cognitive services is about far more than putting AI where you couldn’t before. It’s about using it in exciting new ways to advance the business. Unless you have heterogeneous teams bringing diverse perspectives to the table, you may miss some of the most important innovation possibilities for your business.
  2. You need a cloud strategy that’s not just about the cloud. If you don’t yet have a cloud strategy, you’re behind the curve. But if your cloud strategy is limited to the cloud, you may be about to fall behind the next curve. Microsoft’s announcement is further proof that the cloud is crucial to the enterprise—and also part of a larger environment, including both legacy and edge platforms, with which it must integrate.
  3. Be prepared for the ethics issues. Putting cognitive services in places you couldn’t before could raise new ethics issues. After all, we’re talking about the ability to read people’s expressions and even their emotions. This shouldn’t put you off—but it should put you on alert. Plug your ethics committee into these discussions when appropriate. If you don’t already have an ethics committee, create one. But that’s another post. 🙂

Want to learn more?

Microsoft’s announcement furthers the democratization of AI: the use of AI in more places and in more ways throughout the enterprise and beyond. Whether you turn to us for your AI solutions or look to us to assist you in developing your own, we’re ready to help with the greatest concentration of Microsoft expertise outside of Microsoft itself.

My Story Remix from Build 2017

In case you did not see Story Remix demos from Build, it is awesome. And here is my first take on it just using the photos that I took at Build 2017. Some of the things you saw at the keynote are not in the RS3 build I am running but interesting possibilities nevertheless.

On Culture

I have said in the past, Culture eats strategy for breakfast. One cannot fix culture – but rather lead with example and have others follow.

This article on how Satya at Microsoft is expecting a culture shock to drive growth at Microsoft is a great example of this. Quite exciting days for Microsoft ahead.

HoloLens – Spectator view – allowing others to see what you are seeing

Microsoft just announced an update around the HoloLens that allows you to share on what you are seeing (from a first-person perspective) with others to make to more interactive. This is a combination of MRC (Mixed Reality Capture) which already exists and some new updates that address some of the short coming of the MRC – especially when working with a audience.

The main use case on the spectator view – as the name suggests is to allow those in the room not wearing a device to see the holograms but also the interactions that the folks wearing HoloLens with their mixed reality experience.

You can use this to capture a mixed-reality scene, live stream the content (say in a meeting / conference), and, shoot/record the video. This essentially is the ‘cheap’ version of the special camera rig that Microsoft uses for keynote presentations.

It is not as straight forward as you might imagine; but at the same time if you are doing this ‘properly’ it isn’t as complex as well. You need some special equipment, and need to change some configuration, and add details to your apps to account for this.

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You do need some special DSLR cameras (with HDMI output), and some other hardware – details can be found here. You can also 3D print the mount (STP can be found here).

And in addition there are a bunch of other steps that you need to do – from calibrating  (to get the offset from the camera), to the Compositor (which is a unity extension)  and allows you to record the video and change the hologram opacity, spatial mapping data details, etc.

All the detailed steps can be found here. And if this is all new, then I highly recommend to check out the Holograms 240 course. And below is an example on what this all can look like.

Bing Blues

It isn’t often that one see’s issues with Bing – I can’t recall when I last saw it, but then when it does it sure is cute. We love Pandas so this can only be good. 🙂

Real-time performance capture – HoloPortation?

Some of the folks working on PPI and HoloPortation team from MSR left and went to setup a new company called PerceptiveIO.

They have recently published a paper called Fusion4D: Real0time performance capture of challenging scenes. In that they cover some of the work around multi-view performance capture, the raw depth acquisition and preprocessing that needs to be done around that. This interestingly also handles deformation changes (e.g. taking off a jacket or a scarf) and these can be non-rigid and much more difficult to handle, but they are done beautifully.

ffd 1.png

Combining this with the likes of HoloLens would make it quite interesting. If you want to see more, check out the video below showing the examples and transitions below. Perhaps one day, it would allow us to see and experience events from afar. 🙂

How I feel each time I wear the HoloLens?

Honestly, I don’t think even Tony Stark can explain – this sums it up quite nicely and the music is just the cherry on top. 🙂

Bash and Windows 10 “Anniversary Update”

I am wondering, so what happens to PowerShell now?

image

Bash on Windows

Hmm, what is it downloading from the store? I thought that is what The Add/Remove features would add.

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7GB of memory dumps!

Woah! Almost 7 GB of system error mem dumps! Seriously? I understand the value they provide but why do I need to manually go and clean them up. And 7 GB????? Does anyone even read them?

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God Mode in Windows 10

Got this tip via Jay Doscher at work.
1. Right-click on the desktop
2. Select New ==> Folder.
4. Rename the new folder to this: GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
5. You should now have an icon labeled GodMode and the icon changes too.

GodMode Icon

And as you an see there are many things in there:

GodMode Details

PS – this also works in Win 7 and 8.

Visual Studio 2014 CTP4 and Windows 10 Preview (Build 9860)

Perhaps I am pushing the boundary here, perhaps not but I am having lots of issues with Visual Studio 2014 CTP 4 (specifically Version 14.0.22129.01.DP) and Windows 10 Preview Build 9860.

There have been a lot of errors, and finally it has gotten to the point where even the basic thing like creating a new Console Project results in the following error. I did do a in-place upgrade of Windows from the previous build, but everything else seems to be working out OK – except just can’t write any code.  😯

Visual Studio 2014 CTP 4 Error
VS 2014 CTP 4 Error

I am not sure I should try a repair, or deprecate to Visual Studio 2013.

‘Old’ Surface (PixelSense) stuck on boot up

Samsung SUR40 which recently got stuck at boot up (see the photo below). Once the Kernel lib loaded, for some reason was getting stuck at:

StrongROM version 03.30 Build:_P

MS PixelSense not booting up
MS PixelSense not booting up

Powering it off or on, did not help. Neither did trying to get into the BIOS to try and change some things.

I did get this back up and running, and in the end the solution was quite simple – I had to physically take out the power cable (just powering it down was not enough); wait a few seconds and then plug the power cord in, and boot it back up.

Alphabet Soup

I was cleaning up my documents, and found an old presentation where I talk about a lot of the new things coming out of Microsoft. Seeing this, did bring back memories. Some of it was very cool and head of its time. Not heard of DSL’s recently, wonder where the industry is heading.

Alphabet Soup

A must have Outlook add-in

I don’t know how many people have heard of that NoReplyAll Outlook Add-In from MSR – which is a must have IHMO for everyone. With this enabled, you get the following new buttons in the Toolbar and when composing emails, it will restrict the others from replying-all and help in dealing with some of the email-storms you get internally!

You can NoReplyAll add-in this from here.

Exception of the day

Sigh, why do I get to see all the ‘interesting’ errors. Not sure what do I get to make of this. 🙂

outlook-internal-error

VSTO download for Visual Studio 2012

I don’t know why it is simple to find, or even on the download section on MSDN, but trying to find the VSTO download specifically for Visual Studio 2012 is a real pain. It took me some time trying to find this and if you need to save some time then you can download it from here.

My TechEd Presentation – Building cross-platform Modern Apps – the Design perspective

TechEd a couple of months ago was really fun and I am grateful to Microsoft folks for giving me an opportunity to be both part of the Keynote and also have a slot in the Architecture track. Sorry it has taken me a very long time to upload my TechEd talk “Building cross-platform Modern Apps: the Design perspective”. But as they say better late than never.  😎

You can download a copy of my presentation – Xamarin – Building cross-platform.

Feel free to ping me if you have any questions.