5 IFTTT alternatives for developers

These IFTTT-like toolkits let you bind together services using conditional logic, with a focus on enterprise and developer integrations

5 IFTTT alternatives for developers
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By itself, an app or a website can only do so much. It’s when it works in conjunction with other services that it becomes truly powerful. IFTTT—for If This Then That—popularized hitching together multiple websites and services into event-driven workflows that most anyone could use.

IFTTT isn’t the only game in town for hitching things together, though—especially if you’re a programmer. Here are five offerings—three hosted services and two open source projects—that provide IFTTT-like integrations for both stand-alone developers and developers working in enterprise settings.

Zapier

Zapier works a lot like IFTTT. You pick from a catalog of over 1,000 available services, choose actions from one service that serve as a trigger, then hook that up to actions on other services, using a flowchart-like UI. Zapier’s biggest drawback is that it is still quite new—some features and integrations remain undelivered.

Zapier sports a large roster of enterprise-specific and developer-centric integrations: GitHub, Slack, OneDrive, Monday, Trello. Browse the developer tools category and odds are you’ll find most every tool you already use, as well as a few you weren’t aware of.

Some integrations are available only to premium users, such as AWS Lambda, but the vast majority (including those mentioned above) can be accessed on the free tier. Other integrations are still in beta, like Okta or CloudBoost. And still others are planned but not yet available, such as Code Climate, CircleCI, Amazon RedShift, and Active Directory.

Zapier’s appealing to developers doesn’t mean it’s cryptic. Clear instructions accompany each stage of an integration, and each step can be tested to ensure it behaves as expected before moving on to the next step. Some integrations have support for line items or arrays (e.g., an invoicing app), although that variety of support is still limited.

Paid accounts unlock several types of features. Unless you buy a team or enterprise plan, you’re limited to a certain number of integrations. For example, the $50 “Professional” plan allows for 50 integrations. Conditional logic for integrations, or integrations with more than two steps, are also limited to paid plans. The $250-per-month team plan unlocks everything. That said, some enterprise-grade features, such as single sign-on and audit logs, have not yet been made available.

Tray

“Clicks, not code” is the catchphrase of Tray. It’s fitting, given that a big part of its pitch is integrations for non-technical users in sales, support, and marketing. But Tray has plenty of integrations for programmers as well, and its developer-centric use cases include webhooks, API integration, database integration, and app embedding.

Tray’s integrations can be trigged manually, on a schedule, or via a service or webhook. Many integrations are available as templates, and can be re-used as-is or modified. Integrations are all multi-step, and created with a workflow editor, essentially a graphic flowchart creator. If you just apply a template as-is, you don’t need to use the workflow editor.

Pricing starts at $595 per month, for two workflows and unlimited users. Enterprise plans, with features like single sign-on and logging/auditing, have no fixed pricing, but are customized for each deployment. A newly released “embedded” pricing tier provides some deep, developer-centric customizability by way of GraphQL APIs.

StackStorm

StackStorm is an open source project, written in Python and designed explicitly in the vein of IFTTT. Sensors record events that can fire triggers for actions, controlled by rules, combined into workflows, and managed with auditing controls. Groups of integrations can be bundled together as packs, and made available for others to re-use.

This last feature gives StackStorm a distinct community-project flavor. An online exchange lists all of the community-contributed integrations available for StackStorm, installable via an npm-like command-line tool.

Dozens of out-of-the-box integrations cover many common developer use cases: code repositories (GitHub, Bitbucket, Gitlab), configuration management (Ansible, Chef, Puppet), notifications (Slack), CI (Circle CI, Jenkins) cloud services (AWS, Azure, Google), local infrastructure (Kubernetes, Active Directory), and many more.

Multiple options exist for setting up StackStorm on one’s own systems. You can use a setup script that runs on most compatible Linux distributions, or pull a Docker container, or run an Ansible playbook or a Puppet module. You can deploy a Helm chart to run StackStorm in Kubernetes with high availability. Or if you want maximum customizability, you can set things up by hand.

In addition to the StackStorm open source product licensed under the Apache Version 2 License, an enterprise edition is available with professional support and high-end workflow composition tools. You can try the enterprise edition free for 90 days.

Microsoft Connectors

Microsoft offers its own sort-of incarnation of IFTTT, called Connectors, used to create integrations for three different Microsoft offerings: Microsoft Flow, PowerApps, and Logic Apps. Although these three products are aimed at different markets, they use a common roster of integrations and connectors.

The most prominently featured of Microsoft’s approximately 250 connectors are for Microsoft products such as Office, OneDrive, and Azure services, but there are also integrations for a few other developer-oriented services: GitHub, Slack, PagerDuty, Trello, Jira, Azure Service Bus, and Basecamp. Notably missing are integrations for configuration management tools such as Chef, Puppet, Salt, and Ansible, but you can roll your own connectors with some effort.

Microsoft Flow is the most end-user-oriented of the services, and the one most expressly designed to resemble IFTTT. Flows, or integrations of services with logic, are created using a web interface or mobile app. However, there is no direct way to create your own connector. Also, while Flow has a free tier, some of its integrations are available only on the for-pay tier, which starts at $5 per user per month.

PowerApps is Microsoft’s low-code app creation system for custom business apps—more advanced than Flow, but less burdensome for a developer than rolling everything together by hand. PowerApps lets you make use of the Connector ecosystem to integrate different services. Again, if what you need is not in the roster of integrations, you can create it yourself with some work.

Azure Logic Apps, the most advanced of the three, is intended for developers building enterprise tooling in Azure. It provides more sophisticated tooling than Flow to create integrations. The pricing model is also different. As per other cloud services, Logic Apps are billed per-call rather than per-user. Also, as per Flow, some connectors—mainly those for enterprise systems—are available only as premium add-ons.

Huginn

Huginn—named for one of the ravens that sat on Odin’s shoulders and informed him of the world’s events—is an open source project written in Ruby. Among Huginn’s large suite of functions, it provides deeply customizable integrations (“agents”) between a host of common services. Its largest drawbacks are that you need to host it yourself, and it requires some expertise with Ruby to be fully useful.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to deploy Huginn in a Docker container, and instructions are available to walk you through setup in environments like a DigitalOcean droplet or a Docker swarm mode cluster. The agents provided with Huginn include not only integrations with services, but also basic tasks like parsing JSON or CSV, receiving webhooks from sources, or checking the HTTP status of a given URL. Many of the services integrated with Huginn are developer-focused—Jira, Slack, Basecamp, Amazon S3, and so on. Where a specific integration isn’t available, you can usually draw on one of Huginn’s more general integrations (e.g., a webhook).

The Huginn Wiki on GitHub provides all kinds of useful information about working with the project. Setup guides for both experts and novices walk through the steps needed to produce a running Huginn server, set up OAuth applications, and create new agents.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.