Nadella Says Microsoft Building Azure Cloud as ‘the World’s Computer’

Speaking at the Build 2018 Conference, CEO Satya Nadella says Microsoft is preparing developers for ubiquitous, cloud- and edge-computing with new Azure services and partnerships.

Azure Cloud Future

Providing more evidence that the cloud, not Windows, is the driving force behind the "new" Microsoft, the software giant revealed the steps it is taking to prepare its developer community for the ubiquitous computing era during the Build 2018 developer conference in Seattle.

Taking the stage for his keynote address, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, described how tomorrow's apps that will "need a ubiquitous computing fabric from the cloud to the edge" that relies on event-driven and serverlesscomputing technologies.

To help coders create apps for that harness artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (AI) to deliver ubiquitous-computing experiences, Microsoft is investing heavily in toolsets and IT services backed by the company's cloud.

"Azure is being built as the world's computer," Nadella told Build 2018 attendees during his May 7 keynote address. Citing the 130 new Azure capabilities that Microsoft shipped in the past year, Nadella teased that there were more developments to come, including open-sourcing the Azure IoT Edge runtime.

Azure IoT Edge is a cloud-based service that enables developers to deploy and run intelligent services, packaged into containers, on edge devices. The service is backed by Azure Machine Learning, Azure Functions and Azure Stream Analytics. By open-sourcing its runtime, Microsoft is making its capabilities more accessible to the developers at large.

"This enables the community to extend the use-cases and further innovate," blogged Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of Cloud and Enterprise at Microsoft. "You might think that you're not an IoT developer, but with the growth of cloud and edge apps—running your code at the edge will become the new norm."

Microsoft also announced that Custom Vision now runs on Azure IoT Edge.

Custom Vision enables coders to build applications that can recognize objects in images using machine learning neural networks. It is the first Azure Cognitive Service to make the leap from the cloud to the edge, setting the stage for drones and other devices that can make on-the-spot decisions without connecting to a corresponding cloud service. Other services will join Custom Vision in supporting edge deployment scenarios in the coming months.

A new partnership with mobile chipmaker Qualcomm will help bring to market intelligent workplace safety and home security systems with new visual processing capabilities, Nadella announced. By the end of 2018, the companies expect to release a computer-vision toolkit that runs Azure IoT Edge and will allow developers to tap into Qualcomm's hardware-accelerated Vision Intelligence Platform and AI Engine capabilities for camera-based IoT solutions.

Giving new meaning to the phrase "eye in the sky," Microsoft partnered with drone maker DJI to deliver an SDK that will allow real-time data transfer and full flight control on Windows 10 PCs. The companies are also working on "integrating Azure IoT Edge into the drone" for commercial systems, Nadella revealed.

Finally, Microsoft announced a preview of a Project Brainwave integration with its Azure Machine Learning service. Aimed at real-time AI workloads, Project Brainwave uses field-programmable gate array (FPGA) chips from Intel to accelerate the performance of AI models. Microsoft is also working on adding Project Brainwave support to its deep learning framework, Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit. Meanwhile, select developers will be able to test Project Brainwave at the Edge as part of a limited preview.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...