Why administrators should learn to use Azure Logic Apps

PowerShell for Automation is a popular choice for managing a range of systems and services, but it’s not the only choice for the busy administrator.

Process automation is a key skill for administrators. There are many tools available to make these projects easier than learning a programming language. Azure Logic Apps is a low-code business process automation tool from Microsoft that can be useful for IT work. If you can read a flowchart, you’ll easily understand the flow of a logic app.

Microsoft designates Azure Logic Apps as an integration platform as a service (iPaaS). Administrators can use Logic Apps Designer to create workflows that trigger based on specific events or run automatically on a schedule using connectors to access on-premises and cloud environments. For example, you can use Azure Logic Apps to send email notifications when a specific event occurs in Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), such as when a group member is added or removed. A more advanced Azure Logic Apps example is a rudimentary chatbot in Microsoft Teams.

Azure Logic Apps vs PowerShell or Power Automate

When comparing Azure Logic Apps to other automation platforms, especially ones you may already be familiar with, it’s important to understand the unique features of Azure Logic Apps, which are hosted in the cloud, without server and low code.

Compared to PowerShell, Azure Logic applications are easier to use but much less flexible. With PowerShell, you write the code to automate your processes, while with Azure Logic Apps, you guide data through a workflow by selecting actions and filling parameters into predefined actions. PowerShell offers a wider range of customization, but the administrator’s level of expertise can be a limiting factor.

If you like the Azure hosting aspect but don’t like the Azure Logic Apps framework, you might prefer to use Azure Functions to write PowerShell scripts hosted in Microsoft’s cloud and billed on a pay-per-use or standard basis . With any PowerShell code project, you will need to write the script or find a module suitable for the task. The advantage is more control, but this option lacks a predefined library of connectors.

Another tool with similar functionality to Azure Logic Apps is Power Automate. It is essentially the same basic product but presented in different ways. Power Automate is licensed per user, while Azure Logic Apps is consumption-based. Power Automate also targets end users and does not have access to enterprise features, such as sharing management of a Power Automate flow between users. For a personal workflow, use Power Automate. When automating a business process, use Azure Logic Apps.

Understand Microsoft Azure Logic Apps pricing

To determine the costs of an Azure Logic App, you need to estimate the intensity of your usage and determine if single tenancy is important to you. With the standard plan, you pay for a single-tenant environment on an hourly rate per vCPU and memory. The consumption plan for a multi-tenant environment charges for each connector action or execution in a shared environment with isolated processes.

For new Azure Logic Apps users who don’t need an isolated environment, the Consumption plan will likely meet your needs. You can build workflows and test processes without spending too much money. You might find that upgrading to a standard plan isn’t necessary if your workflows don’t run frequently. However, if you have workflows that run often or are seeing performance issues in the multi-tenant consumption plan environment, it’s worth considering upgrading to a standard plan and reserving resources to keep workflows running at maximum performance.

To check your Azure Logic Apps costs, go to Cost management > Cost analysis and select a scope that includes your logic apps, such as their resource group. Fees vary based on criteria such as region and currency. The screenshot shows that the total cost was less than $0.01 for about 20 runs of an Azure Logic App in my tenant.

The cost of an Azure Logic application running approximately 20 times was less than $0.01.

Why admins might want to use Azure Logic Apps

Azure Logic Apps fits right in with Microsoft’s automation offerings by offering two main benefits to busy admins: easy setup and plenty of out-of-the-box connectors.

You build an Azure logic app with a workflow method and add parameters for each step.

Azure Logic App Workflows
A basic Azure Logic app’s workflow sends a message to Slack when a new Trello card appears.

In this case, the logic app searches for new cards on a Trello board and when it finds one, it sends a message to Slack. Microsoft designed Azure Logic Apps to have the output of actions go into a variable for use in the workflow; the variable is used to write a message to the Post Message action. The advantage of Azure Logic Apps is its simplicity; with practice, it is relatively easy to write a workflow in a short time.

Another advantage of Azure Logic Apps for your integration projects is the large number of connectors available. At the time of publication, there are nearly 700 connectors for enterprise products, such as ITGlue, ServiceNow, and Webex. With this growing library of connectors, you won’t have to learn how to work with a new API or write code. The Azure Logic Apps engine takes care of the data format and tells you what to expect. The only real work is setting up authentication with the wizard and adding those actions to your workflow.

Azure Logic Apps is a good choice for developing process automation. They are easy to set up and billed on a reasonable consumption basis. For a large organization, the minimal cost and its low-code/no-code approach to implementing these automated workflows makes Azure Logic Apps worth a look.

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