Microsoft's Project Sage: A cloud-based recommendation service

Microsoft's Project Sage: A cloud-based recommendation service

Summary: A Microsoft incubation project focused on building a machine-learning-powered recommendation service is staffing up and taking steps toward going commercial.


Microsoft is forming a new team that is building a recommendation-as-a-service, according to a new job posting.


The Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Engineering team in Israel is building what it has codenamed "Project Sage." The job post describes Sage as a "Generic recommendation as a service solution that enables customers to use state of the art recommendation engine in a very easy and intuitive way."

That's it as far as official specifics as to what this recommendation service will do. I'd bet at least one potential use will be a recommendation service for publishers, similar to what Google is doing with its beta content-recommendation offering. I'd think an ad recommendation/personalization offering based on top of this is probably likely, as well.

Project Sage got its start as an incubation project two years ago and "is making its first steps as a product group," the job post says.

Project Sage has its roots in "CloudML," or cloud machine-learning. There's a subset of that team that builds algorithms that can be used by Microsoft product groups and external facing products. (The CloudML Algorithms team is also part of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise team, which is led by Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie.

From a separate job posting for an opening of the CloudML Algorithms team:

"Our team is unique in combining engineering excellence and research depth. The large number of internal users of the CloudML TLC toolkit provides for interaction with many products and learning about the wide variety of modern ML applications and techniques - from random forests on MapReduce to deep learning on GPUs, with everything in between."

Machine learning is one of foundational technology areas that are building blocks of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's cloud first/mobile first strategy. Cloud-based machine learning is also a big priority for Microsoft Research.

At the company's New England R&D (NERD) center, making machine-learning cloud technology accessible to enterprises, data scientists, developers, information workers, consumers and devices is part of the mission statement. The idea is to provide all users with access to a machine-learning platform that allows researchers to conduct experiments and developers both inside and outside Microsoft to build web services that are powered by the cloud. 

Microsoft researchers NERD and Microsoft's New York research lab have been working in conjunction with the Bing team on using CloudML to do predictive analytics. And on May 13, NERD is hosting its third annual New England Machine Learning Day.

Speaking of predictions, Microsoft officials announced on May 8 that they have added forecasting (and hindcasting) capabilities to PowerBI for Office 365, which is Microsoft's business-intelligence service.

(Thanks to @h0x0d on Twitter for the pointer to the job listing for Project Sage.)

Topics: Cloud, Big Data, Emerging Tech, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Eh ?

    Haven't Google being doing this for some time now ?
    Alan Smithie
    • Yes

      Not only does the article elude to this, but it provides a link to more information on the google project. I recommend reading the article, it may answer these questions you have about the headline.
      • To be fair

        I added the Google info after posting the initial version. Thanks for prompting me to add it, Alan Smithie! :) MJ
        Mary Jo Foley
    • Google has been doing it for some time now

      Whether or not Google has or hasn't been doing anything is the issue. Other companies are in their rights to do the same services and drive each other out of business. This is called "competition", and since it is also said that "corporations are people, too", driving others out of business sounds like assault, murder, and other nasty crimes nobody wants to talk about.
      • Get a grip! You sound delusional, and I'm pretty sure that searching

        Google or Bing, will bring up enough psychiatrists, and perhaps one of them can help you.
  • If there was a free market,

    where smartphones had SD cards and no OS restricting their use, and powerful computers that are inexpensive, then any cloud-based system would fail - especially if the systems are lease-based - without massive forms of market manipulation. Because the computers and full-function phones with local storage unrestricted by the OS would be preferred.

    If there is some long-term migration game plan, why no open talk about it? Just talking out of both sides with "free market" this, "cloud" that, "choose", and other things that don't add up?

    Don't get me wrong - Cloud has many truly wonderful purposes (data sharing is easier, applications can be built on more compatible open standards, no walled gardens or other customer traps/hidden markets, etc). It's just interesting to find different points of view at times.
    • Believe it or not, the devices you described, already exist, and the

      free-market system that you keep complaining about, is what brought those devices to you and everybody else. The "cloud" and other technologies are what companies propose and develop, and consumers and businesses accept and adopt, or not. People are not being forced to do anything, and I myself, for example, don't use the cloud and I depend on my trusty old-PC tech to get things done, with my own large drives to hold my files and software. Heck, even you can do as I do, without much of a hassle. Complaining just for the sake of complaining, is irrational.

      Now, if you don't like what you see, then, get yourself into the mountains and become a hermit. I'm pretty sure that, nobody (except for your mom, probably), would miss you at all.
  • It is the end

    The cloud company's like Microsoft will change a month pay system