Azure Logic Apps: The IFTTT or Quick Basic for the serverless era

Microsoft’s Logic Apps gives you a no-code development environment for basic workflow-driven application integration

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Serverless computing might be the flavor of the month, but it’s really nothing new. Developes have been using its underlying technology for a long time now, because it has powered much of the public cloud’s platform-as-a-service features. Fire up a S3 instance on Amazon Web Services or a website on Microsoft Azure, and you’re using serverless technologies; all that’s different from an AWS Lambda or an Azure Function is what’s running and what it’s called.

On Azure, one of the key serverless technologies is WebJobs, an independent process that handles back-end services for Azure’s web application platform. WebJobs has given the Microsoft team building and running Azure a lot of experience in creating and managing server instances that run stateless code. A server can be stood up in milliseconds and torn down as quickly. Yes, there’s some latency, but the economic benefits of near-on-demand compute work well both for Azure and for its users.

That same technology underpins one of Azure’s lesser known features, Logic Apps. Part of Azure’s core PaaS features, Logic Apps gives you a no-code development environment for basic workflow-driven application integration. You can think of it as an If This Then That (IFTTT) for your enterprise applications, using triggers from one app to deliver an input to another.

Business process automation in action

Process automation tools are nothing new; they’ve been around since the days of 4GLs, linking mainframes and desktops. Now they’re tools for integrating existing enterprise platforms and cloud services, with a focus on delivering the outputs users need to solve a specific business problem. There’s a lot to be said for being able to give developers of all skills access to these tools, so they can deliver either temporary or permanent solutions.

Logic Apps is part of a spectrum of Microsoft tools: Dynamics 365 and Office 365 users get access to the more line-of-business focused Microsoft Flows, while more complex applications can be built on top of Azure’s serverless Azure Functions (which can run on-premises and in other public clouds, using a containerized runtime). While much of what’s in Microsoft Flows is accessible from Logic Apps, it also offers more in the way of integration with Azure platform services, helping link services like storage, machine learning, and internet of things.

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