Earlier this year AIS had the opportunity to complete a research project using HoloLens, Microsoft’s mixed reality development platform. Exploring the Microsoft HoloLens was a fascinating experience, and for me, quite a novel one as well.  I’ve admittedly never become caught up in any virtual or augmented reality experiences, or even played any first-person perspective video games. (I have an Xbox One console in my living room, dutifully serving as a glorified Blu-ray player and online video streamer.) In fact, one of the reasons I went with an Xbox was a desire to develop and deploy apps to it, once Microsoft delivered on its promise of unifying all of its platforms.

So lacking a firsthand appreciation of immersive computer-generated experiences, having the ability to see and interact with computer-generated objects inside my real physical space was quite engaging. Read More…

In an earlier blog post, we talked about Excel as custom calculation engine. In a nutshell, a developer or power user can author the calculation logic inside an Excel workbook and then execute the workbook programmatically via either Excel Services or HPC Services for Excel. You can read about this approach in detail in our MSDN article. This approach has been successfully used by our customer on a large scale for many years now.

Lately though, we’ve been thinking about Jupyter Notebooks as another potential option for building custom calculation engines.

But before we make the case, let’s review some background information on Jupyter Notebooks. Read More…

Recently we collaborated with Microsoft and Prospect Silicon Valley (ProspectSV) on a project to assess the viability and value of several Azure services. Specifically, we were asked to demonstrate how the cloud-based platform could be used to retrieve, store, visualize and predict trends based on data from multiple sources. In order to demonstrate these capabilities, we built an ASP.NET MVC application leveraging the following Azure components:

  • Azure App Services
  • Azure Machine Learning
  • Azure Power BI Embedded
  • Azure Storage

Figure 1: ProspectSV Application Architecture depicts how the system uses these four Azure components. This diagram also describes which external data sources are used and where that data is stored.
Read More…

At the Microsoft BUILD 2017 Day One keynote, Harry Shum announced the ability to customize the vision API. In the past, the cognitive vision API came with a pre-trained model. That meant that as a user, you could upload a picture and have the pre-trained model analyze it. You can expect to have your image classified based on the 2,000+ (and constantly growing) categories that the model is trained on. You can also get information such as tags based on the image, detect human faces, recognize hand-written text inside the image, etc.

But what if you wanted to work with images pertinent to your specific business domain? And what if those images fall outside of the 2,000 pre-trained categories? This is where the custom vision API comes in. With the custom vision API, you can train the model on your own images in just four steps: Read More…

It’s another great day at Microsoft Inspire at the D.C. Convention Center! Lots of great sessions and keynotes are coming up today, but here’s a glimpse of some of the sights and sounds from yesterday! Read More…

Containers are, for good reason, getting a lot of attention.  For the cost of having to manage some complexity, they provide a unique level of flexibility, ability to scale, run software across cloud and on-premises environment…the list of benefits can go on and on.  And usually when you hear about containers in the technical press, they’re included in an overarching story about an organization that moved to some highly scalable, microservices-based architecture to meet their ridiculous capacity demands (Netflix, Google, etc.).

At the most basic level, however, containers are about being able to streamline the process of installing and running software. In fact, the fundamental concepts behind containers map almost one-to-one with what’s been traditionally required to install a piece of software on your laptop: Read More…

Over the years, AIS has leveraged “Excel on Server” to enable power users to develop their own code.

Consider a common requirement to implement calculations/reports that adhere to the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) standards. These types of reports are often large and complex. The calculations in the reports are specific to a geographical region, so a multi-national company needs to implement different versions of these calculations. Furthermore, over time these calculations have to be adjusted to comply with changing laws.

Traditionally, these calculations have been implemented using custom code, and as a result, suffer from the challenges outlined above, including the high cost of development and maintenance, requirements being lost in translation, the lack of traceability, and the lack of a robust mechanism for making a quick change to a calculation in response to a change in a standard. This is where the power of Excel on Server comes in.

As you may know, Excel on the server is available via in two forms: Read More…

How do you get better uptime than the cloud? Two clouds!

AIS’ CTO Vishwas Lele stopped by the .NET Rocks podcast this week to talk about our experiences building ultra-reliable applications, both on-premises and in the cloud.

The discussion digs into the decisions around reliability – it’s easy to want it, but will you pay for it? It’s important to calculate the cost of downtime, as that helps set the budget for what it takes to stay up. And that leads to a conversation about how you build highly reliable software – it can’t just come from the infrastructure, there is code involved as well! And the next question is – how do you make your app work in two different clouds?

Listen to the full show at the .NET Rocks! website here.

With the recent release of Microsoft Teams, you may be wondering what the differences between Teams and Office 365 Groups are. At AIS, we’re always on the forefront of the latest Office 365 services, and given our long-time partnership with Microsoft, we’ve actually been using both Microsoft Teams and Office 365 Groups for while now. We’ve gotten a solid sense of what both services are good at and what they’re…not so good at. At least not yet. Read More…