New previews for Azure OpenAI Service, AI dashboards in Azure Machine Learning and a web application routing add-in for Azure Kubernetes Service were among the biggest Azure announcements from Microsoft during this year’s Build conference aimed at developers.
Along with the previews, Microsoft announced new generally available features for its cloud service.
These include the Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform, document and conversation summarisation with Azure Cognitive Service for Language, and a ledger feature for the Azure SQL Database.
Updates expected later this year include general availability for GitHub Copilot, general availability for Azure Spring Apps Enterprise, Dynatrace for Azure and Purview Data Estate Insights.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella touted the company’s Azure OpenAI service during the company’s latest quarterly earnings call in April, describing how the service helps “companies like CarMax turn customer reviews into customized content for shoppers.”
He said that Azure Machine Learning’s “number of monthly inference requests increased 86 percent year over year with companies like PepsiCo using the service to predict which products are most likely to sell.”
Earlier, Nadella said that Azure Cognitive Services saw more than 30 million hours of speech transcribed last quarter, about doubled the amount year over year.
Here are some of Microsoft’s biggest announcements from the Build conference.
Azure OpenAI Service moves to preview
The Azure OpenAI Service will now be in preview mode, allowing developers to add reasoning and comprehension capabilities to their apps, with writing assistance, code generation and analysis of unstructured data, Microsoft said.
The service gives approved customers access to different models from OpenAI, including Ada, Babbage, Curie and DaVinci, the GPT-3 base series.
Approved customers also receive access to Codex series, embedding models and Azure’s enterprise capabilities.
Azure OpenAI Service can also filter out sexual, violent, hateful and otherwise inappropriate content , with additional filters and customization features on the way, Microsoft said.
Incident response teams are also available to update content filters as language evolves, such as the development of new racial slurs.
Upgrades for Azure Cognitive Services for Language
The software giant's Azure Cognitive Service for Language received a new generally available capability for summarising documents and conversations.
Azure Cognitive Service for Language can help developers surface key information in documents and contact center calls to speed up resolution.
Other updates to Azure Cognitive Service for Language include custom-named entity recognition for identifying domain-specific terms.
A custom text classification capability for organising and categorising text with domain-specific labels such as support tickets and invoices was also added.
Azure Machine Learning expansion
Azure Machine Learning has a preview available for an artificial intelligence dashboard aimed at data scientists and developers to more easily implement responsible AI, Microsoft said.
The dashboard has features for data exploration, fairness, and model interpretability.
It can also help analyse errors, counterfactual inference, causal inference and other areas that help developers debug models and make data-driven decisions, the company said.
Azure Machine Learnings also gained a responsible AI scorecard aimed at users of varying technical ability with the purpose of measuring model performance, insights and effects when applied.
Managed endpoints for Azure Machine Learning are now available.
These can be used for deploying large-scale machine learning models for real-time and batch inference and the new version of the command line interface.
Azure Machine Learning also has new AutoML features in preview, including natural language processing support, image tasks support and the ability to generate models’ training codes.
A preview of Python SDK v2 in Azure Machine Learning is available.
New applied AI previews
Microsoft announced new capabilities in preview for some of its applied artificial intelligence tools.
Azure Form Recogniser has new document processing scenarios and layout capabilities for paragraphs, headers and titles to improve text extraction, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft announced a preview for a new authoring canvas, rich responses, event-driven triggers, contextual triggers, new telephony channels and other Azure Bot Service Composer capabilities in Power Virtual Agents.
The Azure Metrics Advisor has a preview for an auto-tuning capability to provide detection preferences and evaluate configuration effectiveness, among other actions.
Azure App Service updates
Microsoft announced a preview version of Google Remote Procedure Call (gRPC) support on Azure App Service, which allows developers to build enterprise-ready web and mobile apps for any platform or device.
The tech giant will release a preview in the coming weeks for Azure App Service bulk migration capabilities.
This aims to categorise which applications are ready for migration, suggest an app for the purpose, and provide guided content and configuration experiences for ASP.NET web apps to Azure App Service.
General availability for Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform
The Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform is now generally available.
It brings together databases, analytics and governance to add layers of intelligence to applications, gain predictive insights and govern data anywhere.
The platform aims to overcome market fragmentation and other customer pain points, according to Microsoft.
KPMG uses Intelligent Data Platform integrations to power its Digital Gateway to track regulatory changes, streamlining compliance and planning and collaboration across tax, legal and finance departments, according to Microsoft.
New Azure Cosmos DB previews
Microsoft has new previews for Azure Cosmos DB, including increased serverless capacity to 1TB, shared throughput across database partitions and support for hierarchical partition keys.
A 30-day free trial experience and support for MongoDB data is avaiable in the Azure Cosmos DB Linux desktop emulator, according to Microsoft.
Azure SQL Database previews
A local development environment provides containerised, full-fidelity Azure SQL databases with extensions for Visual Studio Code and Azure Data Studio.
New constructors and ISJSON enhancements let users validate JSON documents or convert SQL data to the format.
Azure Database For MySQL changes
The Azure Database for MySQL Flexible Server Memory Optimised service tier is now called the Business Critical service tier.
It promises 1.5 times faster performance than single server deployment for Azure Database for MySQL.
With the Business Critical service tier, Microsoft has also made generally available a new 80-core business critical compute instance, with the ability to redirect reporting and analytical queries to secondary, read-only replicas.
Microsoft Purview updates
Microsoft has a preview available for Purview Data Policy for SQL DevOps roles, which gives data owners the ability to manage data entitlements from Purview.
Other previews for Purview include native classification, labelling and protection capabilities for Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Graph APIs for data lifecycle management.
In July, the company will make Purview Data Estate Insights generally available, giving chief data officers an overall summary of the data estate’s health and governance program’s adoption.
Expanded Azure partnerships
Microsoft announced during Build that it has teamed up with network equipment vendor F5 for a preview of the NGINX web server for Azure.
This comes as natively integrated software-as-a-service, and gives developers advanced traffic management features including JSON web token (JWT) authentication, active health checks and Azure Key Vault for SSL/TLS certificate management.
In June, Microsoft and Dynatrace will release a preview of Dynatrace for Azure, a software-as-a-service for cloud observability to resolve issues for mission-critical applications.
New Azure migration and modernisation features
Microsoft previewed the ability to pause and resume migration functions and Azure SQL assessments, with recommendations for SQL Server on Azure virtual machines and support for Hyper-V virtual machines and physical stacks.
Generally available is agentless discovery and grouping of dependent Hyper-V VMs and physical servers during an Azure move, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft has promised upcoming services for developers, including Microsoft Dev Box for self-service access to pre-configured, high-performance, cloud-based workstations.
Azure Deployment Environments will help developers spin up application infrastructure with project-based templates, according to Microsoft.
Now generally available is .NET Multi-platform App UI (.NET Maui), a framework for building multi-platform, natively compiled applications for iOS, Android, MacOS and Windows with C# and XAML in a single codebase.
This summer, Microsoft will make generally available GitHub Copilot, an AI pair programmer that provides suggestions inferred from code and comments.
Azure Arc enhancements
New generally available features for Azure Arc include a landing zone accelerator for Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes allows for easier deployment, according to Microsoft.
A business-critical service tier for Azure Arc-enabled SQL Managed Instance promises enhanced performance and security for users.
In April, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that hybrid cloud Azure Arc saw its customer base triple year over year.
Preview odds and ends from Build 2022
Microsoft now has a preview for Azure Communication Services users to add email notifications to their applications for account sign ups, password resets, service outage alerts, purchase confirmations and other scenarios.
The company launched previews for new Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) features including draft Azure command line interface, a web application routing add-in and a Kubernetes-based event driven autoscaler (KEDA) add-in, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft introduced a preview for Azure Synapse Link for SQL, giving users near-real-time business intelligence reporting on operational data without affecting the operational store.
And a preview for AIOps-powered Smart Maps promises to improve users’ ability to detect, diagnose and observe applications and infrastructure issues.
Microsoft has previews available for GraphQL Federation and token store for Azure API Management, a hybrid, multi-cloud management platform for application programming interfaces across all environments.
Microsoft has a download of the SQL Server 2022 preview available for users to test new features. SQL Server 2022 integrates with Azure Synapse Link and Microsoft Purview for improved insights, predictions and governance from data at scale.
Built-in query intelligence promises automatically enhanced performance and scalability, according to Microsoft.
Multiple Azure services reach general availability
Microsoft has made its Azure Container Apps service for microservices and containerised applications on serverless platforms generally available along with the Azure Communication Services Mobile UI Library that supports 13 languages, and the ability to view shared screen content to help application developers produce user-interface components.
The tech giant renamed its Azure Spring Cloud fully managed service with VMware to Azure Spring Apps.
Azure Spring Apps Enterprise is expected to become generally available in June for fully managed VMware Tanzu components running on Azure.
Service Bus Explorer capabilities are now generally available in the Azure portal, giving developers the ability to specify Service Bus namespace and send messages to a queue or topic in the namespace.
Single-Node Azure Stack HCI also generally available, to help with stack deployment in smaller spaces such as retail stores and branch offices.
Services can be built to scale from a single node to 16, according to Microsoft.
Now generally available are Azure DCsv3 virtual machines (VMs) and Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX) to bring large workloads with low trust requirements to the cloud.
Also generally available are Azure Private Link support for incoming gateway traffic for clients running virtual networks, managed certificate support for custom domain sharing and GraphQL passthrough support.