Microsoft unveils its next-generation AI developer tools

Microsoft is readying more AI tools for developers and data scientists, including a Visual Studio Code extension and a data-wrangling tool.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is adding to its AI development tool stable with new Azure Machine Learning tools.


Microsoft is taking the wraps off what it's calling its "next generation of Azure Machine Learning" at its Ignite IT Pro conference in Orlando on September 25.

Among these tools are the Azure Machine Learning workbench, which officials describe as a cross-platform client for data wrangling and experiment management; an Azure Machine Learning Experimentation service and Azure Machine Learning Model Management service.

The Azure Machine Learning Workbench will complement the current Microsoft Azure Machine Learning Studio tool, officials said. The Workbench supports modeling in Python, PySpark and Scala and integrates with Visual Studio Code and PyCharm.

On the data-wrangling side, Microsoft is commercializing some of the work done by its Microsoft Research PROSE (Program Synthesis Using Examples" Research team. A data-wrangling tool codenamed "Pendleton" is part of what will provide the data-wrangling capabilities in the new Workbench, Microsoft execs confirmed.

Pendleton, which Microsoft has been testing privately for more than a year, is a tool aimed at data scientists that is designed for data preparation and cleaning. The tool can do things like remove errant columns, change formatting in columns, handle missing data and the like. It also includes analytics tools to help data scientists figure out what's included in a dataset. Pendleton can read data from SQL Server, Azure Blobs, and Data Lakes. It also can read files from local PC files.

Besides helping wrangle data, Microsoft also is providing an extension that integrates Visual Studio Code with its AI services. With the Visual Studio Code for AI extension, Microsoft is looking to enable developers to build models using Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit, Google TensorFlow, Theano, Keras, Chainer, and Caffe2.

Microsoft is believed to be continuing to work on a full Visual Studio-like suite for machine learning, which is known internally as Open Mind. I believe this new ML Workbench will be part of this suite at some point, but so far, there's been no official announcement.

Update (September 26): Just heard from Microsoft that the Visual Studio Code for AI tools announced at Ignite this week is its first take on the Open Mind Studio developer tool suite.


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