Low-code is new black. Talking about low-code tools in Microsoft Azure

The demand for low-code among businesses is growing, and manufacturers are responding to it by developing new products. One of the first vendors to offer such solutions was Microsoft. The classic drag-n-drop, which appeared in Microsoft products back in 2012, was already a component of the new architecture. Now the company has introduced new tools – Azure ML and Azure Data Factory, and the capabilities of low code have grown significantly. Now both power users and data engineers can build applications. My name is Alexey Kozykin, I am a developer at KORUS Consulting Group. We work a lot with this system and have learned how to use it as efficiently as possible. Let’s take a look at what basic tools Microsoft Azure offers in order not to waste time on common tasks.

There are two categories of users who will find the low-code solutions of this vendor suitable.

Low code for non-programmers

Power Automate is designed to automate non-paper work, and can be used by any MS Office users without technical skills: accountants, managers, analysts. Microsoft Power Automate is part of the Microsoft Power Platform, which includes Power Apps, Power BI, and Power Virtual Agents.

The less popular a client’s technology stack is, the more serious technical skills you need to have in order to automate its work. For example, if a client has Outook 365, then connecting to mail is very simple: there is a special block in which you need to enter your username and password. If not, then you will have to connect through the universal “send” activity and work through the smtp protocol.

Power Automate looks like a typical “office” system. This is a huge advantage of the product, because users are already familiar with the interface, they understand where to look for this or that button or function. One of the most common use cases of Power Automate to optimize MS Office is to increase the capabilities of the mail service. For example, you can extend the functionality of Outlook with the following:

  1. the ability to receive analytics on mail streams

  2. allocation of key contacts in order to promptly respond to key customers / partners.

  3. automatically forwarding certain types of emails to other services (for example, technical support requests).

  4. creating events in the calendar.

The tool also allows you to work with social networks, notifications, manage data, etc. In addition to the standard cases that the solution offers, you can customize them yourself for specific functions. Since Microsoft offers a large number of integrations with external systems, it is possible to organize automatic work with them. For example, set up saving files from applications to mail in the Dropbox cloud or Google Drive.

Power Automate use cases are available to all users around the world, and Microsoft users regularly publish instructions on how to implement an extension on the Microsoft site. And all this without the involvement of programmers.

Low code for data engineers

Another Microsoft Azure tool is Logic Apps, which is the twin brother of Power Automate with a different scope. If Power Automate makes life easier for MS Office users, then Logic Apps works for the benefit of professionals who work in the Azure cloud environment.

Logic Apps is part of the Microsoft Azure Integration Services platform, which enables access to the Azure API. Logic Apps is focused on creating blocks of business logic as part of a comprehensive integration solution.

At the same time, in order to arrange the finished components in the required sequence, a constructor is used in the process of work, that is, the connection of custom blocks. Again: no code. But in Logic Apps, unlike Power Automate, you can view code by switching to Code View mode. This feature is very helpful in debugging threads, and also allows you to make more subtle changes to the logic of algorithms.

The main feature of Logic Apps is various ready-made collaboration components. They allow you to connect to hundreds of external services and any template you need, add conditionals and loops.

Using the tool, you can:

  1. Process and forward orders to cloud services and on-premises systems.

  2. create email notifications when events occur in some systems and applications.

  3. Move files from FTP server to Azure Cloud Storage.

  4. monitor information on social networks on a given topic.

To use Logic Apps, you do not need to separately study each tool that is used in the project: all the processes in it are standardized. This allows developers to focus on the optimal approach to solving business problems, rather than on technical issues. This is especially helpful in projects where an employee is responsible for development, integration, and the use of machine learning.

In my experience, Power Automate and Logic Apps standardize processes for both power users and professionals working in Azure. This allows:

  1. speed up the development of a new application,

  2. make the approach uniform and optimal in terms of technology, which will simplify solution support,

  3. Make the transition to the clouds easier for those who previously worked only with on premises systems with a little bit of code.

Microsoft Azure is perfect for your first introduction to the cloud. Low-code tools make it easy to enter, and wide functionality allows you to get acquainted with a large stack of available technologies, standardize processes and make them more transparent, manage development standards, get rid of monotonous work and focus on important tasks and keep abreast of all the activities of your information field.

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