Microsoft has launched a new service on its Azure cloud platform known as the Azure App Service.
Azure App Service brings together Azure Websites, Azure Mobile Services and Azure BizTalk Services into a new, unified developer experience.
“App Service is a new service in Azure that makes it easy for developers to build web and mobile apps in the cloud. It lets developers integrate data from anywhere into those apps – whether in on-premises systems or from cloud services,” said Omar Khan, partner director of program management at Microsoft. “And App Service enables developers to automate business processes with a new visual design experience that allows users to connect data between systems.”
Khan said there are four key components you can build with App Service: Web apps, mobile apps, logic apps and API apps. API apps represent the connectivity platform for newly-created apps and systems both on-premises and in the cloud, he said. Microsoft is shipping more than 50 API apps or connectors to popular services for App Service.
In a blog post on the new technology, Bill Staples, corporate vice president for the Azure Application Platform, said Web Apps, formerly Azure Websites, provide a robust set of Web app capabilities including support for .NET, Java, PHP, Python and more, plus full DevOps support through continuous integration with Visual Studio Online, GitHub, Bitbucket and more. Web Apps enable enterprises to connect with existing apps and services on-premises through hybrid connectivity and Active Directory integration while ensuring that compliance, auditing and data retention requirements are met, he said.
Mobile Apps provides a rich set of backend capabilities for native Windows, iOS and Android mobile platforms as well as multi-platforms environments like Xamarin and Cordova, Staples said. Mobile apps make it easy to engage users with push notifications, authenticate with popular identity providers including Active Directory, and store cloud data including offline sync.
“Our new Logic Apps offering allows any technical user or developer the ability to automate process execution across popular consumer and commercial services as well as custom APIs on-premises to help solve even tricky integration scenarios with ease,” Staples said. “Logic Apps also include our advanced set of BizTalk service capabilities for even the most advanced enterprise integration scenarios.”
The new API Apps give developers the ability to discover, host, and manage APIs. They also include built-in support for enterprise systems like SAP, Siebel, and Oracle and popular services like Salesforce, Zendesk, Dynamics CRM Online, Office 365 and others. With API Apps, developers can select from a rich library of existing APIs as well as create their own APIs easily for private or public use, Staples said.
Khan noted that App Service is simplifying app development for developers, as it enables developers to connect data from anywhere into their app. And it makes integration much easier than before.
Microsoft Delivers Azure App Service
The visual design experience delivered with Logic Apps is new and groundbreaking, Khan said. Logic Apps enable developers to connect data across clouds and to automate business processes.
“Say you want to take a business process like looking at Twitter and understanding how customers are talking about your product and you want to take action on that,” he said. “Typically what you would do is automate some business process that monitors the Twitter feed, looks for sentiments about your product, and then based on the sentiment it will take action. We have in Logic Apps, the ability to create that automated business process in just a few clicks using the API Apps we deliver in the box. So you can very simply take a Twitter API app and monitor your Twitter feed. You can perform sentiment analysis on it. And then you can provide some logic to either put data from that Tweet into your Facebook page or put data from that Tweet into other systems like Zendesk and sending an SMS to an employee.”
Indeed, a developer can automate an entire business process visually and then can integrate their web and mobile apps with those business processes. “We allow you to automate business processes very, very easily in a visual way, but we also allow your backend code that’s hosted in App Service to interact with those business processes,” Khan told eWEEK.
Microsoft came up with App Service in response to developer requests for help in dealing with challenges of building apps in a mobile first, cloud first world. Developers are challenged with having to target any device and any platform out there. And they have to do so with the skill sets, tools and languages they are familiar with. Developers also face the challenge of having to connect data from a variety of different systems. Traditionally that’s been on premise, but more and more businesses are keeping data in the cloud as well – on popular services like Office 365 and Salesforce.com. So developers are challenged with how to integrate data from all these disparate sources into their apps. That’s the backdrop of why Microsoft came up with App Service, Khan said.
Meanwhile, Khan noted that there is potential to see integration between App Service and Azure Machine Learning. “All the services in Azure can be used together,” he said. “We have a unified management experience and we have a unified SDK for all the services in Azure. So any data that one service is interacting with can be connected easily with another service. So you can use Machine Learning with App Service. We see lots of interesting scenarios happening with machine learning.”