Build an architecture with real-time machine learning inference and low-code web application UI on Azure

Machine Learning
Microsoft Power Platform
Power Apps
Power Automate
Power BI

This solution expands on Citizen AI with the Power Platform, which provides a high-level example of a low-code, end-to-end lambda architecture for real-time and batch data streaming. It covers how to deploy machine learning models for real-time and batch inference. This article also covers how to consume these models by using an end-user application or analyzing results in Power BI.

Architecture

Diagram that shows a machine learning model created in Machine Learning that obtains car data from Data Lake Storage and provides inferences to an endpoint.

Download a Visio file of this architecture.

Dataflow

This article guides you through a model-view-presenter (MVP) architecture by using semi-structured data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage. You use this data in Azure Machine Learning for training a machine learning model. You deploy the model to a real-time endpoint deployed on an Azure Container Instance or Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) cluster. Finally, Power Apps consumes the model by using a low-code, custom user app.

  1. Ingest: Semi-structured data, like JSON, XML, CSV, and logs, is loaded into Data Lake Storage. You can extend the scope of data ingestion by using Azure Synapse pipelines to pull batch data from a wide variety of sources. You can extend the scope to more data types—without changing the architecture design—both on-premises and in the cloud. This data includes:

    • Unstructured data like video, images, audio, and free text.
    • Structured data like relational databases and Azure data services.
  2. Store: You can ingest data in a raw format and then transform it in Data Lake Storage.

  3. Train and deploy model: Machine Learning provides an enterprise-grade machine learning service to quickly build and deploy models. It provides users at all skill levels with an environment that offers a low-code designer, automated machine learning, and a hosted Jupyter notebook. You can deploy models as real-time endpoints on AKS or as a managed online endpoint. For batch inferencing of machine learning models, you can use Machine Learning pipelines.

  4. Consume: A real-time published model in Machine Learning can generate a REST endpoint that can be consumed in a custom application that's built by using the low-code Power Apps platform. You can also call a real-time Machine Learning endpoint from a Power BI report to present predictions in business reports.

Note

Both the Machine Learning and the Power Platform stacks have a range of built-in connectors to help ingest data directly. These connectors might be useful for a one-off minimally viable product. However, the Ingest and Store sections of the architecture promote the role of standardized data pipelines for the sourcing and storage at scale of data from multiple sources. These patterns are typically implemented and maintained by the enterprise data platform teams.

Components

  • Azure Data Lake Storage: A Hadoop-compatible file system. It has an integrated hierarchical namespace and the scale and economy of Azure Blob Storage.

  • Azure Machine Learning: An enterprise-grade machine learning service used to quickly build and deploy models. It provides users at all skill levels with a low-code designer, automated machine learning, and a hosted Jupyter notebook environment to support your preferred integrated development environment.

  • Azure Kubernetes Service: Machine Learning has varying support across different compute targets. Azure Kubernetes Service is one such target, and it's a great fit for high-scale production deployments. It provides a fast response time and autoscaling of the deployed service.

  • Azure Container Instances: Container Instances is great fit for real-time inference, and it's recommended for development and test purposes only. If you don't need to manage a cluster, use it for low-scale CPU-based workloads that require less than 48 GB of RAM.

  • Microsoft Power Platform: A set of tools for analyzing data, building solutions, automating processes, and creating virtual agents. It includes Power App, Power Automate, Power BI, and Power Virtual Agents.

  • Power Apps: A platform with a suite of apps, services, and connectors. It provides an environment for rapid application development to build custom apps for your business needs.

  • Power Automate: A service that helps you create automated workflows between your favorite apps and services. Use it to synchronize files, get notifications, collect data, and so on.

Alternatives

The solution in this article focuses on an architecture that benefits from speed-to-outcome. In specific use cases, the needs of a custom model can be met by pre-trained models that use Azure Cognitive Services or Azure Applied AI Services. In others, Power Apps AI Builder might provide a fit-for-purpose model.

Scenario details

The ability to rapidly prototype and validate an AI application in a real-world setting is important to following a fail-fast approach. The following services can help with this development:

Machine Learning

  • Supports no-code to fully coded machine learning development
  • Has a flexible, low-code GUI
  • Enables users to rapidly source and prep data
  • Enables users to rapidly build and deploy models
  • Has advanced, automated machine learning capabilities for machine learning algorithm development

Power Apps and Power Automate

  • Enables users to build custom applications and automation workflows
  • Creates workflows so that consumers and business processes can interact with a machine learning model

End-to-end analytics

This architecture extends Analytics end-to-end with Azure Synapse, an example scenario. With this scenario, a custom machine learning model can train in Machine Learning. Then you can implement the model with a custom application built by using Microsoft Power Platform.

Machine Learning fulfills the role of a low-code GUI for machine learning development. It has automated machine learning and deploys to batch or real-time endpoints. Microsoft Power Platform, which includes Microsoft Power Apps and Microsoft Power Automate, provides the tools to rapidly build a custom application and workflow that implements your machine learning algorithm. Now your end users can build production grade machine learning applications to transform their legacy business processes.

Potential use cases

This example workload is designed to help a buyer or a purchasing agent in the automotive industry estimate a car's market price. A user can use a Power App to submit vehicle details to a model that's trained on market data and receive a price prediction in return.

The applicability of this example workload isn't limited to a specific industry and can apply to a variety of use cases. Any use case that uses data stored on a data lake for model training and deployment to a real-time web application can also be used for unstructured or structured data.

  • Customer segmentation: Identify target markets based on real-time data and indicators. For example, predict the promotion that a shopper might respond to based on purchase data and customer details.
    • Key industries: Banking, insurance, retail, and telecommunications.
  • Churn prevention: Identify signs of dissatisfaction among customers and identify customers who are at risk for leaving.
    • Key industries: Banking, insurance, automotive, and retail
  • Predictive maintenance: With operational reporting, and by analyzing metrics and real-time data related to the lifecycle maintenance of technical equipment, companies can predict timelines, potential maintenance events, and upcoming expenditure requirements. These predictions help to optimize maintenance costs and avoid critical downtime.
    • Key industries: Automotive, manufacturing, logistics, and oil and gas
  • Real-time personalization: Generate personalized recommendations for customers in real time.
    • Key industries: Retail and e-commerce.

Considerations

These considerations implement the pillars of the Azure Well-Architected Framework, which is a set of guiding tenets that you can use to improve the quality of a workload. For more information, see Microsoft Azure Well-Architected Framework.

In the world of machine learning and custom model training and deployment, you should consider implementing more governance and adopt practices for operations like MLOps, DevOps, and continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD).

Reliability

Reliability ensures that your application can meet the commitments that you make to your customers. For more information, see Overview of the reliability pillar.

Most of the components that are used in this example scenario are managed services that automatically scale. The availability of those services varies by region.

Apps that are based on machine learning usually require one set of resources for training and another for serving. Resources that are required for training generally don't need high availability, because live production requests don't directly hit these resources. However, resources that are required for serving production requests need high availability.

Cost optimization

Cost optimization is about looking at ways to reduce unnecessary expenses and improve operational efficiencies. For more information, see Overview of the cost optimization pillar.

Azure pricing: First-party services that provide infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) on Azure use a consumption-based pricing model. They don't require a license or subscription fee. You can use the Azure Pricing Calculator to estimate the cost of using the services with your specific data size and workloads.

See the following links for more Azure service pricing resources:

Power Platform pricing: Power Apps and Power Automate, provided as software as a service (SaaS) have their own pricing models, including per app plan and per user.

Deploy this scenario

Here's an example user interface for the app, which was created in Power Apps by using the low-code interface that Power Apps provides.

Screenshot that shows the UI controls, like buttons, and drop-down lists for the user to enter car data.

You can use Power Automate to build a low-code workflow to parse a user's input, pass it to the Machine Learning endpoint, and retrieve the prediction. For more information, see You can also use Tutorial: Consume Azure Machine Learning models in Power BI.

Diagram that shows the dashboard workflow.

To deploy this end-to-end example, follow the step by step instructions by using this sample Power App.

Contributors

This article is maintained by Microsoft. It was originally written by the following contributors.

Principal author:

Other contributors:

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Next steps