Amazon, Microsoft launch deep learning platform

Paul Thurrott's Short Takes October 13

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Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft have teamed up to launch an open-source and deep learning interface "Gluon" that will help developers to deploy machine learning models across several platforms.

Currently, Gluon works with Apache MXNet.

It is aimed at making deep learning accessible to developers, and allows them to prototype, build, train, and deploy machine learning models for the cloud, devices at the edge, and mobile apps. It also said prototyping will be faster, and developers will be able to test neural network models without having to sacrifice performance. AWS and Microsoft published Gluon's reference specification so other deep learning engines can be integrated with the interface.

Dynamic Graphs: Gluon enables developers to define neural network models that are dynamic, meaning they can be built on the fly, with any structure, and using any of Python's native control flow. However, these engines require developers to define the models and algorithms up front using lengthy, complex code that is hard to change. Because the volume of data is large and the models and algorithms are complex, training a model often takes days or even weeks. Support for Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit is expected in the near future.

Flexible, Imperative Structure: Gluon does not require the neural network model to be rigidly defined, but rather brings the training algorithm and model closer together to provide flexibility in the development process. Other deep learning tools make model-building easier, but this simplicity can come at the cost of slower training performance.

In the joint press release, the two companies have said that Gluon is more concise and easier to understand, compared to competing programs. This means it is much easier to debug, update and reuse neural networks.

"Today's reality is that building and training machine learning models requires a great deal of heavy lifting and specialised expertise", Swami Sivasubramanian, Vice President of Amazon AI was quoted as saying.

"We believe it is important for the industry to work together and pool resources to build technology that benefits the broader community", added Eric Boyd, corporate VP of Microsoft AI and Research. "This is why Microsoft has collaborated with AWS to create the Gluon interface and enable an open AI ecosystem where developers have freedom of choice". Machine learning has the ability to transform the way we work, interact and communicate. Gluon is available on GitHub.

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