Microsoft, Salesforce plan to open source major enterprise software products

Both firms will give away software that gave them a competitive edge, a reflection of changing times.

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Microsoft and Salesforce have separately announced plans to release some key software products as open source for anyone to use in their data centers.

Microsoft plans to release its Open Network Emulator (ONE), a simulator of its entire Azure network infrastructure that it uses as a way to find and troubleshoot problems before they cause network outages. The announcement was made by Victor Bahl, a distinguished scientist with Microsoft Research, on a Microsoft podcast.

Meanwhile, Salesforce announced its intention to open source TransmogrifAI, key software behind its Einstein AI product. TransmogrifAI helps build machine-learning systems at enterprise scale. The news came on the Salesforce Engineering blog by Shubha Nabar, senior director of data science at Salesforce Einstein.

Such actions by either company would have been unthinkable ten years ago and reflects how important the cloud and AI have become. More to the point, it also reflects an acknowledgment by both companies that on-premises isn’t going anywhere.

Bahl said the emulator works by mimicking the network, so when networking engineers and operators make changes, they actually are changing the emulator. “It mimics the network underneath so amazingly that you can’t tell the difference. So, once you make the changes, the emulator will then try them out and make sure everything is good. Once everything is good, it’s going to go and put it on the network below,” he said on the podcast.

Microsoft ultimately decided that ONE is too important to keep to itself. “We have decided that this is such an important resource for everybody that just hoarding it ourselves is not the right thing to do,” Bahl said. “So, we are making it available to the entire community so that they can now — and it’s not just for production systems, but also for students that are now graduating.”

The software will help large enterprises improve their network uptime by simulating changes to their network before rolling them out live.

Microsoft hasn’t disclosed where it plans to release ONE, but GitHub — which Microsoft is in the process of acquiring — seems the logical choice.

TransmogrifAI is an automated machine learning library for structured data, which makes sense coming from Salesforce, since its CRM products are built on the traditional row-and-column structure of a relational database. It’s written in Scala and built on top of Apache Spark, Apache’s in-memory analytics software.

Nabar said Salesforce customers are looking to predict a host of outcomes, but every customer’s data is unique, with different schemas, different shapes, and different biases introduced by different business processes. That means building thousands of different models.

“The only way to achieve this without hiring an army of data scientists is through automation,” she wrote.“Most auto-ML solutions today are either focused very narrowly on a small piece of the entire machine learning workflow, or are built for unstructured, homogenous data for images, voice and language. But we needed a solution that could rapidly produce data-efficient models for heterogeneous structured data at massive scale.”

TransmogrifAI promises an efficient coding process with just a few lines of code executing tasks, where a data scientist can automate data cleansing, feature engineering, and model selection to arrive at a performant model without hassles.

TransmogrifAI is available from GitHub.

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