Free ebook: Microsoft Azure Essentials: Azure Machine Learning

Microsoft Azure Essentials: Azure Machine LearningNOTE: The Microsoft Press Guided Tours app has been discontinued and is no longer available in the Windows Store. If you have already installed the app, you can continue to use it for as long as you like. All the tours will remain available for download from within the app.

We’re happy to announce the release of our newest free ebook, Microsoft Azure Essentials: Azure Machine Learning (ISBN 9780735698178), by Jeff Barnes. This is the third ebook in Microsoft Press’s free Microsoft Azure Essentials series.

Below you’ll find the ebook’s Foreword, by Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise group at Microsoft, as well as a few helpful sections from its Introduction. Enjoy!

Download all formats (PDF, Mobi and ePub) at the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

July 6, 2015 update:  You can now get this eBook with interactive features by downloading the free Microsoft Press Guided Tours app from the Windows Store.

I’m thrilled to be able to share these Microsoft Azure Essentials ebooks with you. The power that Microsoft Azure gives you is thrilling but not unheard of from Microsoft. Many don’t realize that Microsoft has been building and managing datacenters for over 25 years. Today, the company’s cloud datacenters provide the core infrastructure and foundational technologies for its 200-plus online services, including Bing, MSN, Office 365, Xbox Live, Skype, OneDrive, and, of course, Microsoft Azure. The infrastructure is comprised of many hundreds of thousands of servers, content distribution networks, edge computing nodes, and fiber optic networks. Azure is built and managed by a team of experts working 24x7x365 to support services for millions of customers’ businesses and living and working all over the globe.

Today, Azure is available in 141 countries, including China, and supports 10 languages and 19 currencies, all backed by Microsoft's $15 billion investment in global datacenter infrastructure. Azure is continuously investing in the latest infrastructure technologies, with a focus on high reliability, operational excellence, cost-effectiveness, environmental sustainability, and a trustworthy online experience for customers and partners worldwide.
Microsoft Azure brings so many services to your fingertips in a reliable, secure, and environmentally sustainable way. You can do immense things with Azure, such as create a single VM with 32TB of storage driving more than 50,000 IOPS or utilize hundreds of thousands of CPU cores to solve your most difficult computational problems.

Perhaps you need to turn workloads on and off, or perhaps your company is growing fast! Some companies have workloads with unpredictable bursting, while others know when they are about to receive an influx of traffic. You pay only for what you use, and Azure is designed to work with common cloud computing patterns.

From Windows to Linux, SQL to NoSQL, Traffic Management to Virtual Networks, Cloud Services to Web Sites and beyond, we have so much to share with you in the coming months and years.

I hope you enjoy this Microsoft Azure Essentials series from Microsoft Press. The first three ebooks cover fundamentals of Azure, Azure Automation, and Azure Machine Learning. And I hope you enjoy living and working with Microsoft Azure as much as we do.

Scott Guthrie
Executive Vice President
Cloud and Enterprise group, Microsoft Corporation


Microsoft Azure Machine Learning (ML) is a service that a developer can use to build predictive analytics models (using training datasets from a variety of data sources) and then easily deploy those models for consumption as cloud web services. Azure ML Studio provides rich functionality to support many end-to-end workflow scenarios for constructing predictive models, from easy access to common data sources, rich data exploration and visualization tools, application of popular ML algorithms, and powerful model evaluation, experimentation, and web publication tooling.

This ebook will present an overview of modern data science theory and principles, the associated workflow, and then cover some of the more common machine learning algorithms in use today. We will build a variety of predictive analytics models using real world data, evaluate several different machine learning algorithms and modeling strategies, and then deploy the finished models as machine learning web service on Azure within a matter of minutes. The book will also expand on a working Azure Machine Learning predictive model example to explore the types of client and server applications you can create to consume Azure Machine Learning web services.

The scenarios and end-to-end examples in this book are intended to provide sufficient information for you to quickly begin leveraging the capabilities of Azure ML Studio and then easily extend the sample scenarios to create your own powerful predictive analytic experiments. The book wraps up by providing details on how to apply “continuous learning” techniques to programmatically “retrain” Azure ML predictive models without any human intervention.

Who should read this book
This book focuses on providing essential information about the theory and application of data science principles and techniques and their applications within the context of Azure Machine Learning Studio. The book is targeted towards both data science hobbyists and veterans, along with developers and IT professionals who are new to machine learning and cloud computing. Azure ML makes it just as approachable for a novice as a seasoned data scientist, helping you quickly be productive and on your way towards creating and testing machine learning solutions.

Detailed, step-by-step examples and demonstrations are included to help the reader understand how to get started with each of the key predictive analytic algorithms in use today and their corresponding implementations in Azure ML Studio. This material is useful not only for those who have no prior experience with Azure Machine Learning, but also for those who are experienced in the field of data science. In all cases, the end-to-end demos help reinforce the machine learning concepts with concrete examples and real-life scenarios. The chapters do build on each other to some extent; however, there is no requirement that you perform the hands-on demonstrations from previous chapters to understand any particular chapter.

We expect that you have at least a minimal understanding of cloud computing concepts and basic web services. There are no specific skills required overall for getting the most out of this book, but having some knowledge of the topic of each chapter will help you gain a deeper understanding. For example, the chapter on creating Azure ML client and server applications will make more sense if you have some understanding of web development skills. Azure Machine Learning Studio automatically generates code samples to consume predictive analytic web services in C#, Python, and R for each Azure ML experiment. A working knowledge of one of these languages is helpful but not necessary.

This book might not be for you if…
This book might not be for you if you are looking for an in-depth discussion of the deeper mathematical and statistical theories behind the data science algorithms covered in the book. The goal was to convey the core concepts and implementation details of Azure Machine Learning Studio to the widest audience possible—who may not have a deep background in mathematics and statistics.

Organization of this book
This book explores the background, theory, and practical applications of today’s modern data science algorithms using Azure Machine Learning Studio. Azure ML predictive models are then generated, evaluated, and published as web services for consumption and testing by a wide variety of clients to complete the feedback loop.

The topics explored in this book include:

  • Chapter 1, “Introduction to the science of data,” shows how Azure Machine Learning represents a critical step forward in democratizing data science by making available a fully-managed cloud service for building predictive analytics solutions.
  • Chapter 2, “Getting started with Azure Machine Learning,” covers the basic concepts behind the science and methodology of predictive analytics.
  • Chapter 3, “Using Azure ML Studio,” explores the basic fundamentals of Azure Machine Learning Studio and helps you get started on your path towards data science greatness.
  • Chapter 4, “Creating Azure ML client and server applications.” expands on a working Azure Machine Learning predictive model and explores the types of client and server applications that you can create to consume Azure Machine Learning web services.
  • Chapter 5, “Regression analytics,” takes a deeper look at some of the more advanced machine learning algorithms that are exposed in Azure ML Studio.
  • Chapter 6, “Cluster analytics,” explores scenarios where the machine conducts its own analysis on the dataset, determines relationships, infers logical groupings, and generally attempts to make sense of chaos by literally determining the forests from the trees.
  • Chapter 7, “The Azure ML Matchbox recommender,” explains one of the most powerful and pervasive implementations of predictive analytics in use today on the web today and how it is crucial to success in many consumer industries.
  • Chapter 8, “Retraining Azure ML models,” explores the mechanisms for incorporating “continuous learning” into the workflow for our predictive models.

This book is dedicated to my father who passed away during the time this book was being written, yet wisely predicted that computers would be a big deal one day and that I should start to “ride the wave” of this exciting new field. It has truly been quite a ride so far.

This book is the culmination of many long, sacrificed nights and weekends. I’d also like to thank my wife Susan, who can somehow always predict my next move long before I make it. And to my children, Ryan, Brooke, and Nicholas, for their constant support and encouragement.

Special thanks to the entire team at Microsoft Press for their awesome support and guidance on this journey. Most of all, it was a supreme pleasure to work with my editor, Devon Musgrave, who provided constant advice, guidance, and wisdom from the early days when this book was just an idea, all the way through to the final copy. Brian Blanchard was also critical to the success of this book as his keen editing and linguistic magic helped shape many sections of this book.