What’s new in Data & AI: Extend the reach of AI with data connectors and integrations

September 9, 2023

Data is the lifeblood of any business, and AI is the key to unlocking its full potential. However, harnessing the volume and complexity of data from apps, services, sensors, and more can be a significant challenge to fueling impactful AI. By investing in a unified, intelligent data platform, organizations can not only save on integration costs and improve their security posture, but also enable more advanced AI capabilities. Healthcare companies like Mercy, manufacturers like Aurobay, Financial Services providers like Manulife, and other companies across industries are paving the way for AI innovation by modernizing their data with Microsoft Azure.

The rise of generative AI presents an especially exciting opportunity to transform your data into a competitive advantage. For example, Atera is transforming IT Management by combining foundation models in Azure OpenAI Service with unique business data, providing customers with an all-encompassing view of IT activities to proactively identify issues, and recommend immediate solutions. Likewise, startup Commerce.AI is driving 30 to 50 percent increases in productivity for customers by using Azure OpenAI Service to extract insights from unstructured data, like customer support calls and online reviews, uncovering new growth opportunities, and automating workflows. By using foundation models as a reasoning engine—not a knowledge base—organizations can build more relevant, differentiated solutions for customers and end-users.

In this month’s blog post, I’ll explore new ways that organizations can connect their business data to Azure AI to unearth meaningful insights, predictions, and actions. First, here are new learning and skilling resources to help your teams get inspired and build a proof of concept quickly.

Skill up with the latest resources for Azure AI developers

Azure OpenAI Service provides organizations with access to OpenAI’s powerful large language models (LLMs), enabling various natural language processing (NLP) solutions to understand and generate content. Developers can access the service through REST APIs, SDKs, and a studio UI. Our new, free online course Develop generative AI solutions with Azure OpenAI Service provides developers with the skills they need to start building solutions with Azure OpenAI Service, and includes a module on responsible generative AI, with guidance and tools to implement solutions responsibly. For organizations that want more customization, we published a new course on how to Fine-tune a foundation model with Azure Machine Learning, providing machine learning professionals with step-by-step guidance on how to explore, fine-tune, and deploy LLMs, all from the model catalog in Azure Machine Learning.

Build a chatbot that uses your own organizational data with Power Virtual Agents and Azure OpenAI Service

Exciting news for chatbot developers: Microsoft now offers seamless integration between Power Virtual Agents and Azure OpenAI Service, helping you unlock the full potential of conversational experiences and generative AI together. Chatbot builders now have two ways to combine these popular services: using no-code out of the box generative AI features within the Power Virtual Agents studio, or through low-code or code-first experiences in Azure AI Studio. And, since you can combine Power Virtual Agents with over 1000 software as a service (SaaS) connectors using Power Automate, there’s limitless opportunities to enrich your chatbot conversations with enterprise services and contextual information.

This update expands the groundbreaking Azure OpenAI Service on your data feature, which enables effortless ingestion of data from any source—be it local or cloud-based—to ground your Azure OpenAI Service solution with contextual data. Grounding models on your data supports more accurate and relevant outputs. For example, a retail company may ground their Power Virtual Agent experience in return policies, discount codes for campaigns, and product catalogs to provide more helpful responses to customers on their website. Because the Azure OpenAI model has access to, and can reference these specific sources to support its responses, answers are not only based on its pretrained knowledge but also on the latest information available in these designated data sources. This grounding data also helps the model avoid generating responses based on outdated or incorrect information.

Bring your Microsoft 365 data into Microsoft Azure to build custom solutions for the future of work

Microsoft Graph is the gateway to organizational data in Microsoft 365, and Microsoft Graph Data Connect enables developers, data scientists, and analysts to leverage that data in Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Fabric while staying compliant with industry standards and keeping organizational data secure. Example use cases include using Microsoft 365 data to help employees find topic experts across the organization, detect fraud in communication data, or analyze meeting requests to understand meeting room utilization. Our new Microsoft Graph Data Connect eBook explains how you can take advantage of all this data responsibly to build insightful solutions for the modern work environment.

A diagram of Microsoft Graph Data Connect serving as a bridge between Microsoft 365 Apps and Data Analytics apps in Microsoft Fabric

Azure Cosmos DB powers the intelligent applications you use every day

From the mobile app you use to order your morning coffee, to the collaboration apps you use at work, developers rely on Azure Cosmos DB to build AI applications that can ingest, store, and process data fast —and at scale. Recently, we introduced vector search capabilities in Azure Cosmos DB, opening a new world of opportunities for building intelligent apps with cloud-scale NoSQL and PostgreSQL data. You may be wondering why vector databases are such a big deal for AI. Essentially, a vector database stores data as “vectors,” or mathematical representations of features or attributes. This means that instead of using traditional methods of querying databases based on exact matches or predefined criteria, you can use a vector to find the most similar or relevant data based on semantic or contextual meaning. This is how vector-based search delivers fast, meaningful, and highly-relevant results, even over unstructured data. It is yet another reason for developers to build AI solutions with Azure Cosmos DB. 

Drive significant ROI and cost savings with an integrated data and AI platform

The Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform provides data connectors and native integrations to help companies unify their data and extend the power of Azure AI, wherever your data resides. A 2023 Forrester consulting study commissioned by Microsoft found that customers taking a unified approach to broad data, analytics, and AI needs:

  • Had a projected ROI of 95 percent to 232 percent over three years.
  • Saved between 19 percent and 70 percent on data governance costs.
  • Improved revenues up to between 1 percent and 2 percent from better customer analytics.

Watch the 30-minute webinar hosted by Microsoft and Forrester to learn more about the economic impact of a unified data platform.

A quotation from a customer calls Microsoft the king of integration and a pair of statistics show that the Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform has a high ROI and NPV.

Scale generative AI with new Azure AI infrastructure advancements and availability

The generative AI industry is evolving rapidly, and companies are looking for a full-stack AI solution that combines both powerful AI infrastructure and managed AI services to evaluate, fine-tune, and deploy large AI models at scale. As part of our commitment to bringing the transformative power of AI to our customers, this month, we announced that Azure OpenAI Service is now available in multiple new regions, providing businesses worldwide with unparalleled generative AI capabilities.

As part of our ongoing investment in generative AI, we also announced the general availability of the ND H100 v5 Virtual Machine series, featuring the latest NVIDIA H100 Tensor Core GPUs and NVIDIA Quantum-2 InfiniBand networking, which deliver supercomputing performance and speed for cutting-edge AI workloads. The ND H100 v5 is now available in the East United States and South Central United States Azure regions. Enterprises can register their interest in access to the new VMs or review technical details on the ND H100 v5 VM series at Microsoft Learn

Embrace the future of data and AI at upcoming Microsoft events

Feeling inspired? Register for these upcoming events to discover how Azure can help you solve your most significant challenges and create new opportunities for your business.

  • Microsoft Envision will connect thought leaders and industry experts for timely discussions focused on solutions and strategies for your organization’s AI transformation. Check out our schedule of upcoming dates and locations, from Mexico City to Mumbai, and discover how AI can help you sole your most significant challenges and create new opportunities for your business.
  • Microsoft Ignite is one of our largest events of the year for technical business leaders, IT professionals, developers, and enthusiasts. Join us November 14-17, 2023, virtually or in-person, to hear the latest innovations around AI, learn from product and partner experts build in-demand skills, and connect with the broader community.
  • Explore all upcoming events for Microsoft Azure, including hands-on workshops for data and AI solutions, special topics like responsible AI, and live Q&A sessions with Azure experts.

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