Cloud adoption, and in particular, hybrid cloud usage is sky high at the moment. Forbes’ 2017 State of Cloud Adoption & Security article noted that the number of businesses using hybrid cloud solutions jumped from 19 percent to 57 percent of those surveyed in just 12 months.
The problem posed when enterprises deploy many applications and services on different systems is one of data integration—just how can all of those apps and services work as one seamless interconnected system, with data flowing automatically between all services?
Enter iPaas, yet another acronym which has became a popular buzzword in technology. Integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) is a cloud-based technology that connects disparate applications and helps them function together, whether those apps are deployed solely in the cloud or in a hybrid storage solution. To learn more, see this iPaaS wiki page with some overviews, definitions, and additional resources on the subject.
Microsoft currently provides one of the main iPaaS solutions in the form of Azure Logic Apps and some associated PaaS offerings which you can combine with Logic Apps to make for a full-featured iPaaS offering. In this post, you’ll learn all about Microsoft Azure’s iPaaS solution (more details on this solution in an article by Mexia), including its use cases and how it works. You’ll also find out about some alternative services.
Microsoft Azure Logic Apps is a platform for orchestrating and integrating workflows between different apps and services, and it is the core of MS Azure’s iPaaS solution. Logic Apps is a serverless service, meaning the end user just focuses on the things that provide value rather than worrying about provisioning computing resources and managing servers.
How It Works
Azure Logic Apps functions through an intuitive visual interface via either the Azure Portal or Microsoft Visual Studio. The visual interface, together with various connectors to different applications and protocols, helps to easily set up and manage integrated workflows.
Connectors are what drive the data integration between different apps and services by retrieving data from and pushing data to protocols, Saas applications, and on-premise systems, using events named triggers. Supported protocol connectors include FTP, HTTP, and RSS, popular SaaS connectors include Office 365, Dropbox, and Facebook. There are also SQL connectors and SAS connectors. See this page for a full list of available connectors.
Another useful feature for use with Logic Apps is Azure Functions, which allows enterprises to create microservices as part of their integrated cloud solution. Such microservices are small, lightweight applications that serve specific business goals and they can push data to or pull data from other apps within the integrated system. Developers can write microservices in languages such as C#, Node.js, PHP, and Python.
Aside from using the graphical interface in Logic Apps to create and manage workflows between enterprise apps and services, there’s also the option to use the Logic Apps Workflow Definition Language (WDL), which is a language used to express tasks and workflows. Read more on Logic Apps WDL here.
Microsoft Azure Logic Apps Architecture: Source
Microsoft Azure Logic Apps is an iPaaS solution that helps to integrate apps and services within an enterprise, whether deployed either as cloud-only services or as a hybrid between on-premise and in the cloud.
More specifically, Logic Apps use cases are:
- Visually implement and orchestrate integration workflows between different services.
- Orchestrate microservices distributed across the cloud.
- Set up cloud-based data B2B integrations.
There are also some complementary services that you can use to implement a more full-featured iPaaS solution alongside Logic Apps, including:
- The aforementioned Azure Functions, which is used to implement code-based microservices and to orchestrate them.
- API Management, which is useful for apps/microservices triggered by HTTP requests to APIs that need API gateways to provide back-end security features like authentication, and response caching for faster API responses.
Pricing is based on actions and the type of connectors used to establish triggers. Actions are simply tasks or steps taken as part of workflows after a trigger. Pricing also varies by region. To take an example, in the West US 2 region, actions cost $0.000025 per execution. The price per execution for a standard connector is $0.000125, and for enterprise connectors it rises to $0.001 per execution.
Microsoft Azure Logic Apps is a robust, feature-rich, and fully-managed iPaaS service with connectivity to many protocols, SaaS apps and Services, and on-premise systems. With extra functionality from complementary services such as Azure Functions and API Management, there are few iPaaS vendors that provide such a powerful integration platform.
Some alternative vendors to Microsoft Azure’s iPaaS solution are:
- Dell Boomi
- Anypoint Platform