In much the same way that the IBM DataScientist Workbench seeks to provide some level of integration between analysis tools such as Jupyter notebooks and data access and storage, Azure Machine Learning studio also provides a suite of tools for accessing and working with data in one location. Microsoft’s offering is new to me, but it crossed my radar with the announcement that they have added native R kernel support, as well as Python 2 and 3, to their Jupyter notebooks: Jupyter Notebooks with R in Azure ML Studio.
Guest workspaces are available for free (I’m not sure if this is once only, or whether you can keep going back?) but there is also a free workspace if you have a (free) Microsoft account.
Once inside, you are provides with a range of tools – the one I’m interested in to begin with is the notebook (although the piepwork/dataflow experiments environment also looks interesting):
Select a kernel:
give your new notebook a name, and it will launch into a new browser tab:
You can also arrange notebooks within separate project folders. For example, create a project:
and then add notebooks to it:
When creating a new notebook, you may have noted an option to View More in Gallery. The gallery includes examples of a range of project components, including example notebooks:
Thinking about things like the MyBinder app, which lets you launch a notebook in a container from a Github account, it would be nice to see additional buttons being made available to let folk run notebooks in Azure Machine Learning, or the Data Scientist Workbench.
It’s also worth noting how user tools – such as notebooks – seem to be being provided for free with a limited amount of compute and storage resource behind them as a way of recruiting users into platforms where they might then start to pay for more compute power.
From a course delivery perspective, I’m often unclear as to whether we can tell students to sign up for such services as part of a course or whether that breaks the service terms? (Some providers, such as Wakari, make it clear that “[f]or classes, projects, and long-term use, we strongly encourage a paid plan or Wakari Enterprise. Special academic pricing is available.”) It seems unfair that we should require students to sign up for accounts on a “free” service in their own name as part of our offering for a couple of reasons at least: first, we have no control over what happens on the service; second, it seems that it’s a commercial transaction that should be formalised in some way, even if only to agree that we can (will?) send our students to that particular service exclusively. Another possibility is that we say students should make their own service available, whether by installing software themselves or finding an online provider for themselves.
On the other hand, trying to get online services provided at course scale in a timely fashion within an HEI seems to be all but impossible, at least until such a time as the indie edtech providers such as Reclaim Hosting start to move even more into end-user app provision either at the individual level, or affordable class level (with an SLA)…