RASA – an Open Source Chatbot Solution

Maruvada Deepti

Ever wondered if the agent you are chatting with online is a human or a robot? The answer would be the latter for an increasing number of industries. Conversational agents or chatbots are being employed by organizations as their first-line of support to reduce their response times.

The first generation of bots were not too smart, they could understand only a limited set of queries based on keywords. However, commoditization of NLP and machine learning by Wit.ai, API.ai, Luis.ai, Amazon Alexa, IBM Watson, and others, has resulted in intelligent bots.

What are the different chatbot platforms?

There are many platforms out there which are easy to use, like DialogFlow, Bot Framework, IBM Watson etc. But most of them are closed systems, not open source. These cannot be hosted on our servers and are mostly on-premise. These are mostly generalized and not very specific for a reason.

DialogFlow vs.  RASA

DialogFlow

  • Formerly known as API.ai before being acquired by Google.
  • It is a mostly complete tool for the creation of a chatbot. Mostly complete here means that it does almost everything you need for most chatbots.
  • Specifically, it can handle classification of intents and entities. It uses what it known as context to handle dialogue. It allows web hooks for fulfillment.
  • One thing it does not have, that is often desirable for chatbots, is some form of end-user management.
  • It has a robust API, which allows us to define entities/intents/etc. either via the API or with their web based interface.
  • Data is hosted in the cloud and any interaction with API.ai require cloud related communications.
  • It cannot be operated on premise.

Rasa NLU + Core

  • To compete with the best Frameworks like Google DialogFlow and Microsoft Luis, RASA came up with two built features NLU and CORE.
  • RASA NLU handles the intent and entity. Whereas, the RASA CORE takes care of the dialogue flow and guesses the “probable” next state of the conversation.
  • Unlike DialogFlow, RASA does not provide a complete user interface, the users are free to customize and develop Python scripts on top of it.
  • In contrast to DialogFlow, RASA does not provide hosting facilities. The user can host in their own sever, which also gives the user the ownership of the data.

What makes RASA different?

Rasa is an open source machine learning tool for developers and product teams to expand the abilities of bots beyond answering simple questions. It also gives control to the NLU, through which we can customize accordingly to a specific use case.

Rasa takes inspiration from different sources for building a conversational AI. It uses machine learning libraries and deep learning frameworks like TensorFlow, Keras.

Also, Rasa Stack is a platform that has seen some fast growth within 2 years.

RASA terminologies

  • Intent: Consider it as the intention or purpose of the user input. If a user says, “Which day is today?”, the intent would be finding the day of the week.
  • Entity: It is useful information from the user input that can be extracted like place or time. From the previous example, by intent, we understand the aim is to find the day of the week, but of which date? If we extract “Today” as an entity, we can perform the action on today.
  • Actions: As the name suggests, it’s an operation which can be performed by the bot. It could be replying something (Text, Image, Video, Suggestion, etc.) in return, querying a database or any other possibility by code.
  • Stories: These are sample interactions between the user and bot, defined in terms of intents captured and actions performed. So, the developer can mention what to do if you get a user input of some intent with/without some entities. Like saying if user intent is to find the day of the week and entity is today, find the day of the week of today and reply.

RASA Stack

Rasa has two major components:

  • RASA NLU: a library for natural language understanding that provides the function of intent classification and entity extraction. This helps the chatbot to understand what the user is saying. Refer to the below diagram of how NLU processes user input.
RASA Chatbot

  • RASA CORE: it uses machine learning techniques to generalize the dialogue flow of the system. It also predicts next best action based on the input from NLU, the conversation history, and the training data.

RASA architecture

This diagram shows the basic steps of how an assistant built with Rasa responds to a message:

RASA Chatbot

The steps are as follows:

  • The message is received and passed to an Interpreter, which converts it into a dictionary including the original text, the intent, and any entities that were found. This part is handled by NLU.
  • The Tracker is the object which keeps track of conversation state. It receives the info that a new message has come in.
  • The policy receives the current state of the tracker.
  • The policy chooses which action to take next.
  • The chosen action is logged by the tracker.
  • A response is sent to the user.

Areas of application

RASA is all one-stop solution in various industries like:

  • Customer Service: broadly used for technical support, accounts and billings, conversational search, travel concierge.
  • Financial Service: used in many banks for account management, bills, financial advices and fraud protection.
  • Healthcare: mainly used for fitness and wellbeing, health insurances and others

What’s next?

As any machine learning developer will tell you, improving an AI assistant is an ongoing task, but the RASA team has set their sights on one big roadmap item: updating to use the Response Selector NLU component, introduced with Rasa 1.3. “The response selector is a completely different model that uses the actual text of an incoming user message to directly predict a response for it.”

References:

https://rasa.com/product/features/

https://rasa.com/docs/rasa/user-guide/rasa-tutorial/

About the Author –

Deepti is an ML Engineer at Location Zero in GAVS. She is a voracious reader and has a keen interest in learning newer technologies. In her leisure time, she likes to sing and draw illustrations.
She believes that nothing influences her more than a shared experience.

Business with a Heart

Balaji Uppili

People and technology are converging like never before, as the world is gripped by COVID – 19. Just a few months ago, nobody could have predicted or foreseen the way businesses are having to work today.  As we were strategizing on corporate governance, digital transformation and the best of resiliency plans to ensure business continuity, no one ever anticipated the scale and enormity of COVID 19.

Today, it has become obvious that COVID 19 has brought about the convergence of technology and humanity and how it can change the way businesses work and function.  While we as leaders have been thinking largely about business outcomes, this pandemic has triggered a more humane approach, and the approach is here to stay.  The humane approach will be the differentiator and will prove the winner.

There is no doubt that this pandemic has brought an urgent need to accelerate our digital capabilities. With the focus on strong IT infrastructure and remote working, workforces were able to transition to working from home, meeting through video conferencing, and surprisingly, this has turned to increase the humane aspect of business relations – it has now become alright for both parties to be seeing children, spouses or pets in meeting backgrounds, and that in itself has broken down huge barriers and formalities.  It is refreshing to see the emerging empathy that is getting stronger with every meeting, and increasing collaboration and communication. It is becoming increasingly clear that we have overlooked the important factor of how it is that people have been showing up to work.  Suddenly it is now more visible that people have equally strong roles within the family – when we see parents having to home-school their children, or having other care obligations, we are viewing their personal lives and are able to empathize with them more.  We are seeing the impact that business can have on people and their personal lives and this is a never like before opportunity for leaders to put our people first.

And with customers being the center of every business, the situation of not being able to do in-person meetings has now warranted newer ways to collaborate and further strengthen the customer-centricity initiatives even more.  It has become evident that no matter how much we as leaders are thinking of automating operations, it is human connections that run businesses successfully. Lots of things have been unraveled – Important business imperatives like criticality of clean workspace compliance, the fact that offshoring thousands of miles away is not factually a compromise, but a very cost-effective and efficient way of getting things done. Productivity has also increased, and work done this far by, has a positive impact of at least 20% or even more in certain situations. As boundaries and barriers are broken, the rigidities of who should work on something and when they should work on it have all become less rigid.  Employees are less regimental about time.  Virtual crowd outsourcing has become the norm – you throw an idea at a bunch of people and whoever has the ability and the bandwidth to handle the task takes care of it, instead of a formal task assignment, and this highlights the fungibility of people.

All in all, the reset in the execution processes and introducing much more of a humane approach is here to stay and make the new norm even more exciting.

About the Author –

Balaji has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry, across multiple verticals. His enthusiasm, energy, and client focus is a rare gift, and he plays a key role in bringing new clients into GAVS. Balaji heads the Delivery department and passionately works on Customer delight. He says work is worship for him and enjoys watching cricket, listening to classical music, and visiting temples.

Hyperautomation

Machine learning service provider

Bindu Vijayan

According to Gartner, “Hyper-automation refers to an approach in which organizations rapidly identify and automate as many business processes as possible. It involves the use of a combination of technology tools, including but not limited to machine learning, packaged software and automation tools to deliver work”.  Hyper-automation is to be among the year’s top 10 technologies, according to them.

It is expected that by 2024, organizations will be able to lower their operational costs by 30% by combining hyper-automation technologies with redesigned operational processes. According to Coherent Market Insights, “Hyper Automation Market will Surpass US$ 23.7 Billion by the end of 2027.  The global hyper automation market was valued at US$ 4.2 Billion in 2017 and is expected to exhibit a CAGR of 18.9% over the forecast period (2019-2027).”

How it works

To put it simply, hyper-automation uses AI to dramatically enhance automation technologies to augment human capabilities. Given the spectrum of tools it uses like Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Machine Learning (ML), and Artificial Intelligence (AI), all functioning in sync to automate complex business processes, even those that once called for inputs from SMEs,  implies this is a powerful tool for organisations in their digital transformation journey.

Hyperautomation allows for robotic intelligence into the traditional automation process, and enhances the completion of processes to make it more efficient, faster and errorless.  Combining AI tools with RPA, the technology can automate almost any repetitive task; it automates the automation by identifying business processes and creates bots to automate them. It calls for different technologies to be leveraged, and that means the businesses investing in it should have the right tools, and the tools should be interoperable. The main feature of hyperautomation is, it merges several forms of automation and works seamlessly together, and so a hyperautomation strategy can consist of RPA, AI, Advanced Analytics, Intelligent Business Management and so on. With RPA, bots are programmed to get into software, manipulate data and respond to prompts. RPA can be as complex as handling multiple systems through several transactions, or as simple as copying information from applications. Combine that with the concept of Process Automation or Business Process Automation which enables the management of processes across systems, it can help streamline processes to increase business performance.    The tool or the platform should be easy to use and importantly scalable; investing in a platform that can integrate with the existing systems is crucial. The selection of the right tools is what  Gartner calls “architecting for hyperautomation.”

Impact of hyperautomation

Hyperautomation has a huge potential for impacting the speed of digital transformation for businesses, given that it automates complex work which is usually dependent on inputs from humans. With the work moved to intelligent digital workers (RPA with AI) that can perform repetitive tasks endlessly, human performance is augmented. These digital workers can then become real game-changers with their efficiency and capability to connect to multiple business applications, discover processes, work with voluminous data, and analyse in order to arrive at decisions for further / new automation.

The impact of being able to leverage previously inaccessible data and processes and automating them often results in the creation of a digital twin of the organization (DTO); virtual models of every physical asset and process in an organization.  Sensors and other devices monitor digital twins to gather vital information on their condition, and insights are gathered regarding their health and performance. As with data, the more data there is, the systems get smarter with it, and are able to provide sharp insights that can thwart problems, help businesses make informed decisions on new services/products, and in general make informed assessments. Having a DTO throws light on the hitherto unknown interactions between functions and processes, and how they can drive value and business opportunities.  That’s powerful – you get to see the business outcome it brings in as it happens or the negative effect it causes, that sort of intelligence within the organization is a powerful tool to make very informed decisions.

Hyperautomation is the future, an unavoidable market state

hyperautomation is an unavoidable market state in which organizations must rapidly identify and automate all possible business processes.” – Gartner

It is interesting to note that some companies are coming up with no-code automation. Creating tools that can be easily used even by those who cannot read or write code can be a major advantage – It can, for e.g., if employees are able to automate the multiple processes that they are responsible for, hyperautomation can help get more done at a much faster pace, sparing time for them to get involved in planning and strategy.  This brings more flexibility and agility within teams, as automation can be managed by the teams for the processes that they are involved in.

Conclusion

With hyperautomation, it would be easy for companies to actually see the ROI they are realizing from the amount of processes that have been automated, with clear visibility on the time and money saved. Hyperautomation enables seamless communication between different data systems, to provide organizations flexibility and digital agility. Businesses enjoy the advantages of increased productivity, quality output, greater compliance, better insights, advanced analytics, and of course automated processes. It allows machines to have real insights on business processes and understand them to make significant improvements.

“Organizations need the ability to reconfigure operations and supporting processes in response to evolving needs and competitive threats in the market. A hyperautomated future state can only be achieved through hyper agile working practices and tools.”  – Gartner

References:

Assess Your Organization’s Maturity in Adopting AIOps

IT operations analytics

Anoop Aravindakshan

Artificial Intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) is adopted by organizations to deliver tangible Business Outcomes. These business outcomes have a direct impact on companies’ revenue and customer satisfaction.

A survey from AIOps Exchange 2019, reports that 84% of business owners who attended the survey, confirmed that they are actively evaluating AIOps to be adopted in their organizations.

So, is AIOps just automation? Absolutely NOT!

Artificial Intelligence for IT operations implies the implementation of true Autonomous Artificial Intelligence in ITOps, which needs to be adopted as an organization-wide strategy. Organizations will have to assess their existing landscape, processes, and decide where to start. That is the only way to achieve the true implementation of AIOps.

Every organization trying to evaluate AIOps as a strategy should read through this article to understand their current maturity, and then move forward to reach the pinnacle of Artificial Intelligence in IT Operations.

The primary success factor in adopting AIOps is derived from the Business Outcomes the organization is trying to achieve by implementing AIOps – that is the only way to calculate ROI.

There are 4 levels of Maturity in AIOps adoption. Based on our experience in developing an AIOps platform and implementing the platform across multiple industries, we have arrived at these 4 levels. Assessing an organization against each of these levels, helps in achieving the goal of TRUE Artificial Intelligence in IT Operations.

Level 1: Knee-jerk

Events, logs are generated in silos and collected from various applications and devices in the infrastructure. These are used to generate alerts that are commissioned to command centres to escalate as per the SOPs (standard operating procedures) defined. The engineering teams work in silos, not aware of the business impact that these alerts could potentially create. Here, operations are very reactive which could cost the organization millions of dollars.

Level 2: Unified

All events, logs, and alerts are integrated into one central locale. ITSM processes are unified. This helps in breaking silos and engineering teams are better prepared to tackle business impacts. SOPs have been adjusted since the process is unified, but this is still reactive incident management.

Level 3: Intelligent

Machine Learning algorithms (either supervised or unsupervised) have been implemented on the unified data to derive insights. There are baseline metrics that are calibrated and will be used as a reference for future events. With more data, the metrics get richer. IT operations team can correlate incidents / events with business impacts by leveraging AI & ML. If Mean-Time-To-Resolve (MTTR) an incident has been reduced by automated identification of the root cause, then the organization has attained level 3 maturity in AIOps.

Level 4: Predictive & Autonomous

The pinnacle of AIOps is level 4. If incidents and performance degradation of applications can be predicted by leveraging Artificial Intelligence, it implies improved application availability. Autonomous remediation bots can be triggered spontaneously based on the predictive insights, to fix incidents that are prone to happen in the enterprise. Level 4 is a paradigm shift in IT operations – moving operations entirely from being reactive, to becoming proactive.

Conclusion

As IT operations teams move up each level, the essential goal to keep in mind is the long-term strategy that needs to be attained by adopting AIOps. Artificial Intelligence has matured over the past few decades, and it is up to AIOps platforms to embrace it effectively. While choosing an AIOps platform, measure the maturity of the platform’s artificial intelligent coefficient.

About the Author:

An evangelist of Zero Incident FrameworkTM, Anoop has been a part of the product engineering team for long and has recently forayed into product marketing. He has over 14 years of experience in Information Technology across various verticals, which include Banking, Healthcare, Aerospace, Manufacturing, CRM, Gaming and Mobile.

Resilience

Machine learning service provider

Bindu Vijayan

Even as the world is grappling to understand the full extent of the economic impact of this pandemic,  I read that the pandemic is minting brand new billionaires, with the need for testing kits, vaccines, and medical supplies being so high. Companies who are able to meet the demand surge for these products enjoy boosted shares and have their stocks surging. That’s how things go with technology, it liberates and it enslaves, but it has most certainly helped build resilience and aided us through the unexpected in our response and recovery. Though labor-intensive businesses like food, manufacturing, logistics and some others are badly hit, our societies are still kept functional by technology in many ways.

Technology has raised our resilience as a community, the pandemic has thrown us into situations we have never been through before –  a paralyzed public transportation, no malls, no restaurants, no beaches, no tourism, no visiting our friends, family, and relatives, almost everything that we have taken for granted has been curbed, but technology has enabled us to continue in spite of the crisis.  We still are able to work, have essential supplies and deliveries reach us, get medical assistance, almost everything has been made available, and possible for us to live in the comforts of our home as we comply with the virus curbs.

Working remotely – Reducing human density and following social distancing are key to combatting this virus, and working from home is seeing a lot of success.  Virtual meetings and collaborations have become the ‘now normal’, with added comfort factors like virtual backgrounds to protect the privacy of one’s home. We are all suddenly seeing the relief from not having to navigate those long commute hours, and this transition has actually dropped a few emotional barriers; suddenly it is more visible (and alright) how we are at home, away from the office, and it is humanizing corporate life a little.  We are alright to see (and for others to see us) children being home-schooled, parents dealing with their fuss and outbursts in the background of a meeting, and pets walking around vying for screen space. We are sharing more human aspects of ourselves, there is this shared vulnerability in this situation which is increasing the engagement and connection between co-workers. Though security issues are a concern, there are many advantages in remote working that are emerging for companies.  If this does become the new way of working, organisations can save a great deal on leases, cafeteria, and other maintenance expenses.

Online / Distance Education – Just like offices and businesses having to function largely from home, the student community as well have learnt to rely on online learning.  About 1.57 billion students are reported to have been impacted by this pandemic, and they are currently doing online programs, thanks to great immersive experiences through technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and others.

Online purchasing – Today undoubtedly, online shopping is a boon, and has come to everyone’s rescue. With such strict lockdowns especially in severely affected areas, people have had to stay in, strictly monitored by the authorities and online shopping is the need of the hour. Grocery e-commerce has soared with shoppers turning online to purchase. Research from Ipsos reports that the largest increase in e-commerce shopping is in Vietnam (57% consumers purchasing online), India (55%), China (50%), and Italy (31%).

Contactless delivery, Drones and Robots – Companies have started ‘contactless delivery’ services with packages being picked up and dropped off at designated locations as this makes it less risky though not entirely virus-proof. Deliveries are also being done by Drones and robots. Drones are even used to walk dogs during these times, disinfect areas,

Entertainment – Be it concerts, be it parties, gaming, physical workouts, it’s all online now, and it’s such a hit with everyone! It’s no more about watching movies at home, technology brings the parties, museums, churches, and ceremonies into our homes now.

Health – Wearable IoT devices to track one’s vitals are proving its worth with each day into the pandemic.  It captures patient information early and allows for faster and more effective treatment. Telehealth is another important aspect of healthcare today.  Today, it is proving particularly helpful for mental health support, given the travel restrictions.

As we operate our businesses away from the office, employees will have to be kept engaged.  Enabled with technology, grave as the pandemic is, employees are empowered to work from home.  Behaviours need to strengthen organizations’ culture, and it is important that the culture is based on trust, transparency and honesty.  It is not easy to make things error-free, but the current scenario demands that expectations are managed well, and the foundation works on mutual loyalty. 

It is not just the employees who are going through anxieties and fears, the same is happening to our customers as well.  Lower productivity, logistics, and other restrictions of lockdowns can disrupt relationships and engagements. Special attention to reinforcing trust and transparency through openness and willingness to engage is imperative. And, through it all,  protect your employees, they are the best ambassadors for your organisation, and employee behaviour and attitude is a very significant driver of customer satisfaction.

“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.”Doug Conant

References;

An unprecedented crisis and its unprecedented opportunities

Machine learning service provider

Bindu Vijayan

We will never forget these times, most of us, the regular, morning-news addicts, switch on our TVs, hoping to see declining numbers in the coronavirus infected list.  Country to country, we go feverishly through the good news that we are finally seeing, with the curve flattening. There is a lot of fear and trepidation as to how we will pick up and reintroduce our ways of living and working. Even as we are experiencing just how effective it is to be working from home, it is but natural that companies will resume regular ways of working – back to the office (do we really need to continue paying the real-estate gods as much?), resume travel (do we need to, when virtual meetings were working so perfect?) as soon as the travel embargoes are lifted, it would soon be back to business, all of us more determined than ever, the whole world is raring to go.

Clear communication, as often as it takes, would be the backbone of the new disruptive work practices as these practices will leave employees with some degree of confusion/unrest, particularly in the threat of the current recession. Our lives have been disrupted in every way under the COVID 19 threat, and it is very important that employee morale is high.  It is important for Managers to address employee concerns with sensitivity, everyone is going to have questions on the future of the company, the business, and if their roles are going to be seeing changes. Employees must be told about the changes that are going to be affected, the precautions that are being taken, and also taught/ guided how to function best under these circumstances. If someone has recovered from COVID 19, support him/her without stigma and discrimination. Maintaining employee morale through various activities during these times will bring the much-required boost – plan on virtual awards and recognitions, do as much online as possibly can. And let the communication and interaction be two way – find out the office sentiment, how employees are feeling and make adjustments and improvements accordingly, and communicate constantly.

Going back to our offices after this crisis requires renewed vigilance, given the nature of the coronavirus. Resuming work at the office premises would mean having the whole bunch of employees back, which in itself is a very tricky situation – from social distancing back to human density – it is very important that workplaces are maintained in high levels of hygiene. COVID 19 established the fact that there is definite risk in crowds, and for companies to plan to have employees back at their premises imply a deeper than ever responsibility to workplace hygiene and health. Managing the numbers at our workplace is going to be critical if we are to keep safe from the threat of another attack by COVID 19. Hygiene and cleaning processes need to be increased to its maximum capacity across the workplaces and common areas. Surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly. Alcohol based hand rub dispensers should be maintained at prominent places across the facility. Keep promoting hand-washing through posters and monitors across the facility so that it is a constant reminder for employees to take precautions.

Having to be careful with numbers would require companies to redesign workplaces to have employees coming back. Even though it might not be entirely viable, it can be a mix of having employees continue work from home in rotation, perhaps every week, or whatever works best for the functions, while others work out of the office in redesigned (read larger, increased physical distances) workspaces.  Allocating more space to employees can be achieved only through rotation shifts in order to support social distancing for the rest of the required period as per WHO / local health authority guidelines.  Plan work schedule charts for the various functions to work out of their offices, and maintaining strict schedules will not only decrease the risk of infection but also help employees to plan better, as well as ease anxieties and confusion.

To make the best out of the situation, let’s take the opportunity to accept this as a huge learning time – rethink on travel, travel only if it is really necessary and save money, it can be diverted into more important areas. Promote collaboration across geos, virtual meetings have been a big success during this time, and lets continue to collaborate not just for work and meetings but also to have online employee events across geos. If anything, using more online meetings due to the situation has only brought about an increased sense of camaraderie.  We have seen our colleagues in New York city working at the BronxCare, helping patients in ICU, working alongside the medical staff, and it has been a proud moment for every GAVSian across the world to celebrate them, GAVS’ heroes.

And lastly, as we leave this traumatic time behind us, let’s be careful to ensure that we don’t have to go through the situation again.  Follow WHO guidelines to take control measures that focus on prevention and on active surveillance for early detection and treatment.  The opportunities that this pandemic has shown us are multitude – Newspapers report “our planet is detoxing as humans stay lockdown” – Lower carbon emissions are reported.  Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Standford University says that carbon output could fall by more than 5% this year, the first dip since a 1.4% reduction after the 2008 financial crisis. The air is cleaner and it is quieter too. Decibel readings at a busy intersection in India were 90 pre-pandemic but it recently measured at just 68, reports Boston University. Water quality is reported to have improved across the globe – from Venice, famous for its canals, its waterways are benefiting from the lack of usual boat traffic brought on by thousands of visitors. The wildlife that usually shies away from humans is seen in abundance, be it the Ridley turtles in the beaches of Orissa, India, to the otters in Singapore, to the whales and deer in Japan, to the orcas in North America.  There is so much of the natural world that is suddenly thriving when we gave it a little space….

This has been a time of unprecedented learning opportunities even as our lives got turned upside down. But true as human spirits go, here is something remarkable I read on Linkedin; it reflects hope, positivity, and genuine empathy – here is an excerpt from a post by Dr. Joerg Storm “Next year, I don’t want to hear about the Oscars, Grammys, Tonys or Golden Globes….. I want to see nurses, doctors, ambulance crews, firefighters, healthcare support workers, delivery guys, shop workers, truck drivers, grocery store workers, and all other essential workers get free red carpet parties with awards and expensive goodie bags. “

Virtual desktops on a meteoric rise

Bindu Vijayan

For its versatility in supporting mobile workforces, to security, to energy efficiency, virtual desktops have been on a meteoric rise in recent times. The technology brings benefits that makes it near mandatory, given the way businesses are having to function with the raging pandemic gripping the world.

Wikipedia defines VDI as “Desktop virtualization is a software technology that separates the desktop environment and associated application software from the physical client device that is used to access it….In this mode, all the components of the desktop are virtualized, which allows for a highly flexible and much more secure desktop delivery model.”

Financial impact – With VDI, you have the freedom to reallocate huge CAPEX IT investments into other areas according to your business demands. The technology helps you save on those high cost capital expenditures like expensive servers. It is a viable and sound proposition as hardware issues and related problems are dealt with on the main server vs several individual machines. It takes time to provision new desktops and laptops, and VDI takes the headache out with simplified management. The money invested in server hardware becomes an onetime cost as against investing in several desktops.  It also reduces the admin and support costs.  There are no expensive installations in spite of remote working and the maintenance / software upgrades and so on that usually takes up lots of time when done on several individual machines can now be brought down to a minimum with it being centralized. It helps save manhours. With VDI using the storage capability and computing power of the data center, individual devices require less RAM and less storage space, and that points towards less expensive machines with high performance.  It helps to budget hardware investments more appropriately and reallocate to other areas.

Security – Today, security has become a serious concern for businesses.  With VDI, tracking external devices becomes much more manageable. Using a central database with centralised storage makes it more secure. No individual device holds / stores data and thus the company data is more secure and under central supervision. You don’t risk having files in various devices, and there is the added advantage of not losing data if anything happens to individual devices or desktops.  Right from individual files to the various applications that are installed, it is easier to manage them centrally and thus avoid all the time engineers usually take to locate individual problems. This sort of centralized troubleshooting helps maintain lean IT operations.

With centralizing the updating process for an organization with different people using different types of devices, right from desktops to laptops to tabs and high tech phones, the chances are that they are going to be on different operating systems, and VDI centralizes the process. And given the unprecedented scenario we are in, disaster recovery is crucial.  When data is stored centrally, it can be accessed anywhere with minimal downtime.

Energy efficient – VDI also comes with the advantage of being energy efficient.  It uses much less electricity than individual desktop computers.  Becoming energy efficient is not something that is aspirational any longer – businesses commit to reducing their carbon footprints to do their bit to saving our planet.

To sum up, the efficiency and the versatility of VDI makes it possible for employees to work from anywhere subject to internet connectivity, regardless of their location, type of device, situation, time of the day, etc.  Employees are happier when they feel they have the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime, a fact that is especially true with the millennial workforce. It is the current day need and the answer to businesses with most of the world having to work from home to battle the pandemic.  It means employees have the flexibility to work from anywhere without compromising security, with complete control over budgets as there is no need for purchasing additional devices.  It increases productivity, with the IT department taking care of the deploying applications etc., while the users are left relatively free to manage and focus on their work. Plus all the heavy lifting that is usually associated with computing gets done by the remote servers where data and programs are centralized, which has applications perform with the speed and efficiency.  This reduced lag time coupled with increased computing powers sums up to huge productivity gains.

Are you ready for the switch to virtual desktops?

GAVS’ zDesk will do the job for you, request for a demo, write to inquiry@gavstech.com

zDesk combines the benefits of VDI and Desktop as a Service (DaaS), and can be hosted either on-premise or on the cloud service of your choice. The zDesk stack is a complete, holistic solution that sits on top of brownfield” customer infrastructure. The zDesk Enterprise Service Bus collects and distributes logs, security threats, user profiles, guests, hardware inventory and KPIs. zDesk provides storage optimization, including compression and deduplication, which reduces storage costs and upkeep. Persistent storage is in the form of local disks and replicated databases. Additional services such as brokering and monitoring, help ease the process of delivering the desktop to the end-user, and reduce incidents.

Key benefits you get from zDesk;

  • Save on 90% of utility bills
  • 40% on desktop investment
  • 40% on software licensing costs
  • 80% of support costs
  • Achieve 0% data loss
  • 90% faster deployment
  • 100% secured endpoints
  • Reduce 70% of IT incidents

Creating Purposeful Corporations, In pursuit of Conscious Capitalism

Gavs technologies ceo

Sumit Ganguli

More than 8 million metric tons of plastic leak into the ocean every year, so building infrastructure that stops plastic before it gets into the ocean is key to solving this issue,” said H. Fisk Johnson, Chairman, and CEO of SC Johnson. SC Johnson, an industry-leading manufacturer of household consumer brands, has launched a global partnership to stop plastic waste from entering the ocean and fight poverty.

In August 2019, after 42 years of its inception, Business Roundtable,  that has periodically issued Principles of Corporate Governance, with emphasis on serving shareholders, has released a new statement of Purpose of a Corporation. This new statement was signed by 181 CEOs who have committed to lead their companies to benefit all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.  Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., is the Chairman of Business Roundtable. He went on to say, “The American dream is alive, but fraying,” “Major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term. These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans.

Today the definition of corporate purpose seems to be changing. Companies are now focused on the environment and all the stakeholders.  There is a growing ambivalence about Capitalism that only promoted the pursuit of wealth, according to a Harvard Business School survey.

But this is a far cry from when we were growing up in India as youths, in the 1980s. Our definition of personal success was to expeditiously acquire wealth. Most of us who were studying Engineering, Medicine or pursuing other professional degrees, were all looking for a job that would sustain us and support our immediate family. The other option was to emigrate to America or other developed countries, for further studies and make a life here – to celebrate Capitalism in all its glory. 

In India, we were quite steeped in religious festivals and rituals. We attended Baal Mandir and had moral science in school, but the concept of Service, Altruism,  Seva, Sharing were largely platitudes and they were not a part of our daily lives.  There was an inbuilt cynicism about charity and we never felt that when we grow up, we need to think about the greater good of the society. 

And that is where Conscious Capitalism comes in. Instead of espousing Ayn Rand’s version of scorched earth capitalism, “ Selfishness is a Virtue”, or blindly following  Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good”,  the media, parents, teachers, influence makers could promote and ingrain in all of the youth, students and people at large that there is merit in wealth creation, but it could be infused with altruism. We could celebrate the successful who also share. This could dispel the notion that charity and sharing of wealth is only for the rich and the famous.  

ai automation in cloud computing

America gets criticized for many things around the world, but often the world overlooks that the largest amount of charity and donations have been from the USA.  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Warren Buffet, Larry Elison of Oracle who has pledged a significant portion of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and many others have absolutely embraced the concept of Conscious Capitalism for their corporations. But what would really broaden the pyramid, would be when early entrepreneurs and upcoming executives are also engaged in sharing and giving, and not wait till they reach the pinnacle of success. We cannot expect only governmental initiatives to support the underprivileged. We need to celebrate Conscious Capitalism and entrepreneurs and business leaders who are pursuing their dreams and are also sharing some portion of their wealth with the society.

At GAVS and through the Private Equity firm Basil Partners we are privileged to have been involved in an initiative to nurture and support a small isolated village named Ramanwadi in Maharashtra, through a project named Venu Madhuri (www.venumadhuri.org).  The volunteers involved in supporting this small village have brought success in several areas of rural development and the small hamlet is inching towards self-sufficiency.

Basil Partners along with Apar Industries seed-funded the Midday meal program, (www.annamrita.org)  that feeds almost 1.26 Million school students per day in Mumbai; and have promoted the Bhakti Vedanta Hospital in Mumbai.

These are all very humble efforts compared to some of the massive projects undertaken by the largest of groups and individuals. However, they all make a difference. I truly believe that we need to internalize some of the credo and values that have been espoused by H Fisk Johnson & the work companies like SC Johnson is doing, emulate Azim Premji, Satya Nadella and many others. They are the true ambassadors of Conscious Capitalism and are creating purposeful corporations. 

Machine Learning from Programmer’s Perspective

Gireesh Sreedhar KP

Introduction

Machine Learning (ML) is key pillar of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) domain. ML solves problems which are unimaginable using traditional programming paradigm. During my interactions with people on ML, I am frequently asked following key fundamental questions.

  1. What is Machine Learning (ML)?
  2. What is the need for ML programs when traditional programs have served us well for decades?
  3. What differentiates ML from traditional programming paradigm?

Let me answer above questions from a programmer’s perspective to build understanding irrespective of your ML background.

Traditional Programming Paradigm

We are familiar with traditional programming, where we use selected programming language (like C, Java, etc.) and program specific instruction or rules to process inputs which creates output we need.

Let us understand with an example, a retail store wants to write a program to find amount to be paid (Amount) given Quantity (q) and price per unit (p). We will solve this by writing code as below.

  1. Read two inputs ‘q’ and ‘p’ (Data)
  2. Amount = p*q (apply Rules, Rules are part of program, but shown as input for illustration)
  3. Return Amount (Output)

The need for Machine Learning

Let us try to solve same problem of computing ‘Amount’ from inputs ‘p’ and ‘q’. However this time we are required to read the inputs (p and q) from a piece of paper with digits either handwritten or printed. This needs program to recognize the digits from paper (images of digits received by program) before digits can be assigned to ‘p’ and ‘q’.

Let us examine traditional programming approach (writing rules) to recognize the images of digits received by program

  • Are rules scalable?
  • Can rules handle recognizing digits written in different orientations and styles? Say, when image received is program should recognize the image as digit 8.
  • There are over 70,000 samples of handwritten digits which are commonly used (refer MNIST database, sample below), can we write rules to cover all possible combinations?

Now it’s clear to us that rules-based approach will break and it’s not practical to build all rules and program those. We need something else instead of rules to solve these types of problems and that something else which replaces rules is Machine Learning.

What is Machine Learning?

Let us ask ourselves

  1. What differentiates the first problem statement (easily solved using rules) from the second one?
  2. Why a problem easily solved by humans (recognizing different styles digits by vision), is such a difficult task for computers?

We humans learn to identify digits which are written in standard format, however when presented with digits written in different styles and orientations, we are still able to recognize the digits identifying the patterns which are the beauty of human learning process. Can we make computers (machines) do the same and learn like humans? Let us understand how we make a machine to learn this task and perform like humans.

We will feed the Machine Learning program (ML) with lots of data (examples) containing images of digits in different styles and orientations along with actual digit it represents (supervised learning). Say one data point will be an image and mapped to corresponding digit 8. We are providing data along with the intended output as input to ML for learning. Processing lots of inputs, ML comes up with Rules or Patterns or Models to map an input to output we need (like humans).

This Rules/Pattern/Model learned by ML will be used to process new incoming data to produce output or sometimes called as Predictions.

What differentiates ML from traditional programming paradigm

The major difference between traditional program and ML is, traditional program applies rules on input data to produce output. However, ML takes output (outcomes we need) as input and produces Rules/Pattern/Models as output which are then used to process new inputs.

Why Machine Learning

Data-driven decisions increasingly make the difference between keeping up with the competition or falling further behind. Machine learning can be the key to unlocking the value of corporate and customer data and enacting decisions that keep a company ahead of the competition.

Machine Learning at GAVS

GAVS has own in-house Artificial Intelligence research team building advanced Machine Learning algorithm and techniques powering its products and solutions. ZIF (Zero Incident FrameworkTM) Artificial Intelligence-based Technology Operations (AIOps) from GAVS is powered by state-of-the-art Machine Learning algorithms developed in house.

About the Author:

Gireesh is a part of the projects run in collaboration with IIT Madras for developing AI solutions and algorithms. His interest includes Data Science, Machine Learning, Financial markets and Geo-politics. He believes that he is competing against himself to become better than who he was yesterday. He aspires to become a well-recognized subject matter expert in the field of Artificial Intelligence.