Public cloud technology is literally reshaping how developers are writing applications and how IT operations provisions infrastructure for development platforms as well as business-critical applications. New public cloud-driven technologies have come onto the scene that is driving a shift away from the traditional monolithic applications found in many environments.

New technologies such as containers and serverless technologies are leading to applications being designed and developed with microservices and not the traditional monolithic architecture. Microsoft’s Azure public cloud offers many great features including serverless technologies.

In this post, we will take a look at the Microsoft Azure Functions overview and features, to discuss the powerful capabilities offered by the Azure Functions App Service.

Azure Cloud Serverless Technologies

What is Serverless technology?

It refers to a model of software development relying on cloud technologies to host only application code and their configurations. With Serverless, the underlying infrastructure is abstracted away from the customer. This includes the servers, network, storage, and all other components required to make the application function. These underlying components are the responsibility of the cloud provider. The customer only has to be concerned with their code and applications only. This is where the context of the term “serverless” comes into play. It is serverless from the customer perspective. This makes it much less complicated from the customer’s perspective.

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They are no longer responsible for managing or monitoring the underlying infrastructure. Scaling is taken care automatically by the public cloud provider and the serverless platform. The Azure Cloud Serverless Technology can be consumed in terms of Functions-as-a-Service or FaaS in Azure.

Let’s look closer at Azure Functions.

What is Microsoft Azure Functions?

The Azure Functions is a serverless compute service that enables running application code on-demand with having to provision and manage the underlying infrastructure. Essentially, your code or script is hosted in Azure and is triggered to run in response to a variety of events. Customers choose a language to host their code and then the appropriate platform is provisioned for running the code snippet. Scaling, as mentioned, is taken care automatically.

What are the key features of the Azure Functions service?

  • Choice of language – Write functions using your choice of C#, F#, or Javascript
  • Pay-per-use pricing model – Pay only for the time spent running your code
  • Bring your own dependencies – Functions supports NuGet and NPM, so you can use your favorite libraries
  • Integrated security – Protect HTTP-triggered functions with OAuth providers such as Azure Active Directory, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft Account.
  • Simplified integration – Easily leverage Azure services and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings
  • Flexible development – Code your functions right in the portal or set up continuous integration and deploy your code through GitHub, Azure DevOps Services, and other supported development tools.
  • Open-source – The Functions runtime is open-source and available on GitHub.

What are the primary use cases for Azure Functions?

  • Processing data – Data can be processed by incoming batches. Multiple formats can be consumed by the functions and can run the conversion, cleaning, filtering and other operations on the data
  • Integrating systems – Functions provide a great way to integrate legacy systems and code. Azure Functions can proxy between the legacy applications and accept requests from the end-user or application and convert it into a format the legacy application understands
  • IoT technologies – IoT is a huge use case in today’s modern environments. Functions allow efficiently interacting with IoT devices and today’s applications.
  • Simple APIs and microservices – Powerful use case that allows breaking down large monolithic applications into smaller discreet function code triggered by events. Functions can be connected to other functions.
  • Any simple tasks that you want to run on a schedule or by trigger

Azure Functions has many seamless integrations including the following:

  • Azure Cosmos DB
  • Azure Event Hubs
  • Azure Event Grid
  • Azure Notification Hubs
  • Azure Service Bus
  • Azure Storage
  • On-premises
  • Twilio (SMS messages)

There are two ways to purchase Azure Functions:

  • Consumption plan – You are charged based on the runtime of your code in Azure Functions
  • App Service plan – If you already have App Service for other applications like web apps, you can run functions on the same plan with no additional cost.

Azure Functions Runtime

The core engine behind the Azure Functions service is the Azure Functions Runtime. The runtime is what makes the Azure Functions service work.

Inside the Azure App Service, the Azure Functions Runtime is loaded and waits for requests or triggers to initiate the Azure Functions. When a request is received, the payload is loaded and the Azure App Service reads the Azure function.json file. Incoming data is mapped and the function is invoked with parameter values. When the Azure Function execution is completed, an outgoing parameter is passed back to the Azure Function’s runtime.

Azure Functions Triggers and Bindings

Azure Function Triggers are what cause a function to run. It defines how a function is invoked. A function must have one trigger. A binding to a function is a way to declaratively connect to another resource to the function. Bindings can be connected as either input bindings or output bindings. Both can also be used together. The data from bindings Is provided to the function as parameters. Triggers and bindings allow developers to avoid hardcoding access to other services.

Azure Functions Monitoring

Azure Functions offers built-in integration with Azure Application Insights to monitor functions. Application Insights collects log, performance, and error data. It automatically detects performance anomalies and includes powerful analytics tools to help diagnose issues and understand how functions are used. With Application Insights, businesses can continue to improve performance and usability.

Azure Functions Authentication and Security

With Azure Functions, the Azure App Service is used for authentication. It provides built-in authentication and authorization support so users can be authenticated and access data with minimal coding. There are many identity providers that can be utilized for authentication with Azure Functions. This includes the Azure Active Directory, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft. This is a federated identity configuration that allows the third-party identity provider to manage the user identities and authentication flow for your application.

Microsoft Azure Functions

App Server authentication settings

Concluding Thoughts

Microsoft Azure Functions provide tremendously powerful features that allow businesses today to modernize their applications. It provides a much more efficient way to split apart traditional monolithic applications into much smaller and scalable pieces.

Azure Functions allows developers to only have to concentrate on their function code and makes the solution “serverless” in that the underlying servers and infrastructure required to make the function code run is abstracted away from the user.

Azure Functions provides many powerful capabilities such as providing identity authentication easily to developers. Instead of having to write code to take care of this, they can simply hook into the various identity providers in the Azure App Service to take care of authentication.

Azure Functions allows businesses to provide modern, flexible, and efficient implementations of their applications by using the flexible capabilities provided by the Azure public cloud.

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Microsoft Azure Functions : An Overview
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