Azure Logic Apps - an alternative for Zapier & IFTTT?

Integration platforms as a Service (IPaaS)

Integration platforms as a Service (IPaaS) like Zapier or IFTTT let you connect several SaaS applications and have been around for a while. Their value proposition is to enable “normal” users (not developers) to create simple, automated workflows by chaining popular services such as MailChimp, Google Spreadsheets and many more. For instance,

  • when a new file is uploaded to Dropbox create a post on Slack to inform the team
  • whenever a new contact is created in your CRM send her/him a welcome mail or SMS

While they are really easy to use, the platforms mentioned above also have some limitations. For instance, you are bound to the available connectors unless you know how to deal with generic HTTP requests (outbound) and webhooks (inbound). Moreover all communication between the connectors is unidirectional; the response can neither be evaluated nor processed leaving error handling and clearing as manual tasks up to the user.

Azure Logic Apps

Engaging with Microsoft’s Azure platform I stumbled across a nice alternative: Logic Apps. At the time of this post Logic App is still in preview and the user interface (on the preview portal) needs getting used to.

Logic Apps comes with ready-to-use adapters for some popular services, eg. Facebook, Dropbox, Quickbooks, Slack, Twilio, SugarCRM, Salesforce, etc.

Moreover Logic Apps allow bidirectional communications and offer a wider range of “technical” connectors, eg.

  • to Azure Service like API App, Service Bus Connector, WebJobs, etc.
  • for middleware (Biztalk, MessageQueues) and database servers (DB2, SQL Server, …)

which let’s you build more complex, custom solutions.

While business team members could use Logic Apps to automate cross-service tasks it seems that Microsoft has designed Logic Apps to build trigger-action pipelines that integrate Azure services with common internet protocols (POP3, FTP) and popular web platforms (Dropbox, Facebook, etc.). As this requires some knowledge about the customers infrastructure on Azure plus basic API experience this tools is aimed at a tech-savvy audience.

Summary

Azure Logic Apps are a nice tool for your technical staff to build simple, automated workflows that connects Azure services with each other or with popular external services.

Due to the small number of connector for popular web services and the more complex user interface, Logic Apps currently cannot compete with Zapier or IFTTT when it comes to non-technical users.

Want to learn more about Logic Apps?

Watch Scott Hanselman’s famous Azure Friday episode on the topic: