Networking

Integration Has Come a Long Way with Azure Logic Apps

Every business with more than one enterprise or server-based application reaches a point when integration between their systems and data becomes important. In its simplest forms, integration may entail email-based messages from one system to another, data extracts and loads, or use of vendor-supplied connectors purpose built for specific use cases. As business requirements outgrow basic methods, more complex integrations typically call for custom development, sophisticated integration tools, or more often, both. Fortunately, as more applications have moved to the cloud, so have integration tools. And as enterprises of all sizes re-evaluate their integration topologies, the market has driven the quality of tools up, and the price, in some cases, down. One such tool, from Microsoft, is Azure Logic Apps.

Logic Apps provides a purely linear usage-based and transparent pricing model. To give an example of how this works out, consider a set of integrations with a monthly usage of 20 million “actions” (workflow steps), of which 500 thousand are also “standard connectors” and 500 thousand are “enterprise connectors” (in other words, 20 workflow steps to every 1 callout to an external system). Even a moderately large use case such as this works out to only $1,063 per month. Many use cases will cost well under $100 per month.

I come from a background using last generation on-premise tools such as BizTalk, Software AG’s WebMethods, and the older on-premise TIBCO platform. All the modern cloud solutions I’ve tried so far are a huge step forward in simplicity. However, some take simplicity so far as to constrain capabilities and in-depth troubleshooting. Others are priced extraordinarily high. In my assessment of many of the top players in the space, Logic Apps provides a great balance between ease-of-use and technical depth, while remaining one of the lowest cost in the SaaS space. It also comes with a large library of already-published connectors which further ease authentication and schema navigation, with more being added at a rapid rate. And it is possible and reasonable to build custom connectors when necessary.

An additional important consideration when evaluating any SaaS integration tool for many use cases is the ability to integrate with on-premise software and data. It’s not atypical for integrations to still interact with data in on-premise databases, file servers, SharePoint farms, and even on-premise APIs. Except on-premise APIs, Microsoft provides a simple and secure method of exposing and interacting with most on-premise data. Using a free Windows service called the On-Premise Gateway, we can setup a service that calls out to Azure, eliminating the risk of opening incoming holes in our firewalls and/or exposing endpoints on our private network edges. The gateway is then accessible as an API connector easily usable from several pre-built connectors for SQL Server, etc. Connecting to on-premise APIs, however, requires additional complexity involving custom connectors or using a local BizTalk or other mid-tier that has a connector already.

Like many other areas of IT and applications, the SaaS model is rapidly disrupting integration middleware. Competition is driving rapid improvement, more self-service, scalable pricing and capacity, and, if you shop around, better value. In my experience, I’ve found Logic Apps to be one of the best values and have yet to find a real-world scenario that it is not capable of handling. Whether you’re considering just dipping your toe in custom integration or are planning to move existing integrations to the cloud, Logic Apps is worth consideration.

If you would like to learn how Thrive can help you with integration, contact us, or call 1 (866)-205-2810.