Before the cloud, the traditional way of integrating our systems and applications together with partners systems or Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions like Dynamics 365 or Office 365 happened on-premise, with middleware like Microsoft BizTalk Server.
With the expanded capabilities of data integration platforms like Azure Logic Apps, we can now reduce our historic dependency on middleware solutions like BizTalk and connect directly to our SaaS solutions and integrate better, smarter workflows from one convenient place - the cloud.
Azure Logic Apps is one of the best workflow options to extend your integration platform to the cloud. It seamlessly connects your apps and services, whether on-premises or in the cloud, and brings your business workflows together in one place for additional consistency and scalability.
What is an enterprise integration platform?
An integration platform is any software solution that integrates your various applications, data, processes and services you rely on across your business. It does this by using connectors, predefined components that help bridges send and receive data, including two-way bridges that allow HTTP-based request and response interactions.
Integration platforms are used to create an environment that allows businesses to develop, orchestrate, automate and govern custom integration workflows by connecting all your resources within a single solution. A fully-fledged enterprise-wide system that can pull this off is referred to as an Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS).
At its core, Azure Logic Apps is a serverless workflow engine service available in the cloud and a key part of Azure’s Platform as a Service (PaaS) feature-set. It stands out from traditional, bespoke workflow applications by offering a ton of features out of the box that significantly streamline the workflow development process.
We breakdown the top 7 reasons why you should be using Logic Apps as your integration platform.
1. It's a cost-effective integration solution
Azure Logic Apps is one of the most cost-effective enterprise integration platforms on the market.
The service requires zero upfront setup costs, and like other Azure services, you don’t have to pay for infrastructure maintenance because it’s fully managed for you by Microsoft.
Because Logic Apps is a serverless engine, you never pay for resources you may not end up using, because you’re billed by consumption - you only pay for what you use. If you have a connector to Office 365 with a ‘When a file is modified’ trigger, you are only charged when files are actually modified and subsequently trigger the action.
Another often overlooked benefit is that all users of Logic Apps can develop and test integration features prior to deploying their workflows, without worrying about any additional costs.
In short, as a serverless engine, Logic Apps brings down the cost of enterprise integration, lets you reduce manual administrative tasks and focus more on deploying your code and refining your business logic.
2. Drag-and-drop design for better business workflows
Logic Apps makes creating workflows simple with its interactive, drag-and-drop design interface using the in-built Logic Apps Designer. Available in Azure Portal via your standard Web browser, you can build automated business processes and system integrations with minimal coding using hundreds of pre-built connectors – and it automatically generates the code in the background.
When deployed, Logic Apps lay out your workflows in an easy-to-read order, starting with a trigger for executing the desired business workflow, like filtering through social media posts. The connectors you use facilitate the process or integration to take action for the desired result, like sending these filtered posts to a specific team messenger channel. By connecting processes visually, the logic can also be handily reused for other workflows.
Logic Apps additionally provides ready-made templates, which are prebuilt logic apps that follow commonly used patterns that let you create more workflows even faster. For example, you can implement a personal productivity template which sets organisational daily reminders, turns critical work items into to-do lists, and automate tasks down to single user-approved steps.
3. It's a scalable and lightweight service
Azure Logic Apps is flexible on account of its scalability as a cloud-based, serverless computing service.
Traditional enterprise application development usually involves plenty of worry about hosting, monitoring and scaling, but serverless solutions like Azure Logic Apps takes care of all of these separate worries in a single managed service.
With serverless compute, the platform automatically scales out your workflow runs with the resources it needs, and there’s no need to provision VMs. Because the cloud can scale from nothing to handle tens of thousands of concurrent functions within seconds, you can match changing events and triggers in real-time, without any manual configuration.
Inactivity, skipped actions or multiple actions triggered do not negatively affect Logic Apps performance at all on account of its scalability. The platform is prone to occasional latency at times, but in terms of availability and reliability, it’s one of the best integration platforms out there.
4. 200+ enterprise connectors out of the box
Before your logic apps can access any app, data, device or service, you first create a connection to it. Connectors allow you to authorise your logic apps to connect, access and expand the capabilities for your on-premises and cloud apps to automate and perform tasks with data that you create and already have in other disparate systems.
Logic Apps connectors are best thought of as the building blocks to connect your resources and define the appropriate action you wish to trigger on each end. For example, if you want to set up a create a new calendar event (an action) in Outlook every time an object is added to your Dynamics CRM (a trigger), you use a pre-built Outlook and Dynamics connector to allow the services to interact, and then define the appropriate action on each end with a list of pre-built connector actions and triggers.
Connectors reduce and eliminate potential integration challenges in connecting your apps, data, devices and services together because it’s easy to use, for developers and non-coders alike. And Azure Logic Apps easily has one of the most extensive list of connectors out of any integration platform out there, with over 200+ connectors currently available for popular SaaS apps, including Dropbox, Dynamics, Outlook, Twitter, and Salesforce.
5. In-built monitoring for faster historical insights
In-built monitoring tools make it easy to get a historical overview on your integrated apps, data, processes and services. It’s fast and simple to check everything from performance to current status, run history, and trigger history, and because it's in the cloud, authorised users can more easily access this key information from anywhere.
You can also get a more detailed view and visualisation of all your logic apps with the Logic Apps Management Solution on Azure Operations Management Suite (OMS), which includes tracking of custom queries, success and failure graph trends, Power BI report generation and a timeline of your runs, actions, triggers and failures.
6. Supports B2B and enterprise messaging integration
Azure Logic Apps provides business-to-business (B2B) integration features via its Enterprise Integration Pack that allow users to exchange messages electronically, even if they use different formats and protocols. The pack decodes inputs received from your enterprise apps, processes it using workflows and encodes the output into a standard format target systems can interpret.
B2B workflows are handled using XML processing and transmission and validation, while B2B exchanges use industry-standard protocols, such as AS2, EDIFACT, and X12. These messages can be secured with additional encryption and digital signatures.
By using Logic Apps, you can store all of your artefacts (agreements, certificates, partners, schemas) in your integration account, and build B2B workflows and integrate them with third-party SaaS apps, on-premises apps or even custom apps using Logic Apps’ connectors.
7. Use existing BizTalk and on-premises investments
If your business is heavily aligned with BizTalk, Azure Logic Apps offers an easy way to leverage your existing processes implemented with the service by using Azure BizTalk Server. It’s a free separate download added to BizTalk Administration once installed, and other adapters for other systems are available.
With this software adapter, you can enable BizTalk to call on Logic Apps and provide seamless, secure connectivity to your SaaS applications such as Dropbox or SalesForce. Essentially, you can keep your critical data and processes within on-premises environments you’re already invested in, while enjoying the many benefits of cloud integration.
Azure Logic Apps: Next steps?
Azure Logic Apps is constantly being updated with new connectors, features and templates to continuously enhance your cloud integrated workflows. If you're unfamiliar with cloud-based enterprise integration platforms and you are interested in creating smarter workflow environments, Xello can help guide your move to iPaaS.