What is Microsoft Azure Logic Apps and how does it compare to Azure Automation?

As Microsoft Azure continues to be developed and more automation options become available; Azure Automation, Logic Apps, ARM (Azure Resource Manager) and Azure Function Apps to name a few, the question is quickly turning from ‘how do I automate with Azure?’ to ‘what automation type do I use in Azure?’. Across our next few blogs we will seek to delve into the options available and look to define how they stack up against Azure Automation.

What is Logic Apps?

Azure Logic Apps is a cloud service that helps you automate and orchestrate tasks, business processes, and workflows when you need to integrate data across enterprises or organizations. Logic Apps have evolved from the Microsoft BizTalk platform which is an on-premise business process application.

Logic Apps are created in Azure and consist of a trigger which when fired calls a series of actions and conditions. For example: when a record is received in system A, send an email to a list of email addresses.

Microsoft Azure Logic Apps use a variety of Triggers and Actions linked together to construct a process workflow. These Triggers and Actions are provided by making use of one or more product Connectors. Workflows can be constructed to automate business processes linking a wide variety of systems in a graphical browser-based application.

What are the benefits?

Like Azure Automation, the upfront costs for Logic Apps are typically quite low due to the cheap running costs of Microsoft Azure. With a large number of business application connectors available there are a lot of options when it comes to integration, especially when you look to creating social linkage (i.e Twitter, Facebook, etc.). If Biztalk worked for you on-premise then Logic Apps is a sensible option when looking to move those workloads to the cloud.

Disadvantages?

The disadvantage, or limitation, of Logic Apps, is revealed when you consider the maturity of the connectors and integrations available. While there are over 200 different connectors currently in the market place that can be used for Logic Apps these are typically in a ‘preview’ stage and don’t have the full functionality of equivalent automation connectors built on other platforms. In other cases, the desired integration is not present at all, for example, a connector for BMC Remedy, which limits the possibilities available to users.

The other limitation is there is currently no PowerShell connector so you cannot run a PowerShell command or script from within Logic Apps.

What is Azure Automation

Azure Automation is a cloud-based automation platform that provides an expansive automation service whilst remaining cost-effective thanks to both low upfront and running costs. Azure Automation enables you to automate tasks which would typically bog down and occupy IT and service desk personnel time.

Azure Automation is compatible with multiple vendors, cloud platforms and on-premise systems. It is based on and built using the programming language PowerShell and so has a vast reach when it comes to integration opportunities.

Benefits

Thanks to Azure Automation being developed as a cloud platform, deployment is simple and speedy and can be set up worldwide at the click of a button.

The relative cost for using and deploying Azure Automation is very low, as it is charged on a pay-as-you-go model, where costs are only incurred whilst your automation is executing and as Microsoft actually provide you with the first 500 minutes of ‘execution time’ free this significantly minimizes your initial outlay to achieve significant automation benefits.

With over 300 PowerShell Integration Modules available there are a lot of options when it comes to integration covering both Microsoft products and services as well as other companies’ services.   Increasingly vendors are releasing PowerShell modules for their existing platforms as well.

Not only does Azure Automation leverage the existing PowerShell Modules but it also offers different programming options to further extend the usability options;

Graphical

PowerShell

Python

Based on Windows PowerShell and created and edited completely graphically

Text runbook based on Windows PowerShell script

Text runbook based on Python, which extends automation to include Mac OS X, Linux, and Unix

Disadvantages

The disadvantage of Azure Automation comes into play when you consider the flexibility and the scope of smaller automation tasks. Typically Azure Automation becomes too powerful and overly complex of a platform when it is just used for simple integration workflows.

What are the differences between Logic Apps and Azure Automation?

Both Logic Apps and Azure Automation capabilities overlap along with other Azure technologies such as Azure Function Apps and Azure Service Bus messaging which we will review in future blogs.

When looking at which route to go down, the choice you make will typically depend on the scope of use cases you’re looking to implement.   Are looking to provision and manage virtual or physical infrastructure? Or automatically fulfill User Service Requests?  Or automate a complex decision based manual process where you can stop and then resume following a time delay or external input?  If so you want to be looking towards Azure Automation.

If, on the other hand, you are looking to automate simple point to point business processes i.e. automate emails upon a request entering the ordering system for example, then Logic Apps will be better suited for your organization.

Comparison

Although both Logic Apps and Azure Automation build off different platforms and are suited towards different areas of automation there is a high likelihood that you will make use of both automation techniques, often utilizing elements from several of the Azure capabilities to create a streamlined solution tailored to best fit your specific needs.   One case in point is the use of Logic Apps as a scheduler function for triggering Azure Automation Runbooks.

As the Logic Apps connectors evolve we will see more use of the Logic App Playbooks for the simple business processes whilst the depth and capability of Azure Automation Runbooks, particularly with the Kelverion Integration Modules, will likely remain the tool of preference for the IT Professional.

From suitability of automation point of view, Logic Apps and Azure Automation currently provide platforms for very different automation tasks; one is better suited to IT infrastructure and service automation whilst the other is better suited to automate simple business process.

Logic Apps, Azure Automation Runbooks, Azure Service Bus, and Azure Function Apps all contribute to the broad automation capability available from the Azure Cloud.

For more information on the advantages and disadvantages of Azure Automation, check out our recent blog post here or if you’d like to see what we offer on Azure take a look at our Runbook Suite, which covers all of our Microsoft Azure Automation products and services.