Microsoft Azure is a fantastic platform that allows customers to access many cloud resources that customers can then connect to solve business problems. There is enormous power in the platform, and it’s like having your giant box of Lego bricks, which you can build into any solution.
The challenge with a platform in which you can build anything you want is that when your application is built, the platform view makes it difficult to create a way for your non-cloud experts to support the end solution.
We have always felt Serverless360 had a sweet spot in the market. We create an operational-friendly view for your support users, lowering the cost of ownership of the solution and making it easier to support your applications. It leads to an improved customer experience if the app you build is easier to support.
Recently, we have been focusing on developing the product to align with the solutions customers build. Some customers build high-level reference architectures for the common types of solutions. We planned to align our investments in developing Serverless360 to help customers solve real-world problems.
In Azure, there is a lot of overlap between the types of resources and kinds of solutions they are used to build. As we develop features to help a kind of customer, we will also be building features to help others build different features.
I have been planning to start talking about our reference architectures so we can help customers see how the Serverless360 features align with the solutions you are building.
In this first article, we will be looking at customers trying to build integration solutions. With Serverless360, this was the first place we started because of our history with BizTalk360 and our experience in helping customers support Enterprise Integration solutions on-premise with BizTalk.
A customer building a cloud-based integration platform with Microsoft Azure might be someone new to using Microsoft technology. They might be migrating from BizTalk or using a hybrid approach. Finally, they might be building tactical integrations to support an application they are building. In all these scenarios, they will use some technologies considered to have an integration focus. From the experience of our people and advisors, who have many years of experience in integration solutions, we feel like the below diagram shows the standard technologies that customers will choose from to help build these integration solutions.
We see a wide range of customers who use Serverless360 supporting integration solutions. Some solutions have just one interface, which may be entirely built with Logic Apps. A customer has a big integration platform with hundreds of interfaces that use any of the Azure Integration Services like Logic Apps, Service Bus, Functions, API Management, etc.
We feel that these are the core Azure Resource types that integration customers will use, and our investments aimed towards the support of these resource types with a solution will help these customers.
How does Serverless360 help my Integration Solution?
The first key feature in Serverless360 that will help you is Business Applications. This feature is about taking things from the platform view of your system (Microsoft Azure Portal) and providing an operations view (Serverless360 Business Application). You will create a tree structure of business applications representing the solutions’ scope or context within your platform. You will then connect the business application to Azure Resources to solve a business problem. You have 100 Logic Apps, 50 Service Bus Queues, and 30 Azure Functions. If your order process uses 3 Logic Apps, 2 Queues, and three functions, you would create a business application for your Order Process and connect it to just the 3 Logic Apps, 2 Queues, and three functions that implement the order process. You now have created a context where the support operator can answer question one when the business user says, “There is a problem with the orders process. The support operator needs to determine which of your 180 Azure resources are used in the Order Process.
The tree view of business applications is connected to our monitoring, so you have a nice, easy-to-use view of which apps have problems and are working well.
Inside a business application, we have a dashboard feature. When you have a business application setting the context for what your support operator needs to look at to support the system, you can have a dashboard with those key metrics that tell you how the application is running.
With Azure, there are a lot of metrics available for each type of resource. If we continue our Order Process business application scenario, there are 3 Logic Apps, 2 Queues, and three functions. There are probably hundreds of different metrics available in Azure for these eight resources combined. With dashboards, we can present those key ones that the support user cares about for this application’s use case. Maybe we care about the queue length for one of the two queues and execution time for 1 of the Logic Apps. We can create a dashboard with just those metrics in it.
Dashboards are about presenting the critical information you care about quickly.
Next, we start to think about supporting the individual resource types. First, we have Logic Apps, you often care about every unique execution of a Logic App, and if we can help the support user know what worked, what failed, and what they need to do, this makes support much more effortless.
With Logic Apps, we have the following features which customers find most useful:
- Dashboard to easily see your logic app key metrics in one place
- Action Required is a task list of errors you need to deal with and can manage, ensuring there are no support tasks left to do
- Favorites allow you to mark a specific run of a logic app as a favorite so you can easily find it later
There are also other features such as basic operations like start/stop, resubmit, etc
Messaging and Events
Serverless360 has Azure Service Bus, Event Hubs, and Event Grid features if you use messaging or events scenarios.
First off, within these features, you can map specific objects to a business application. Maybe you have many topics or subscriptions, etc., but a business application uses only a subset. Serverless360 will let you, for example, map 2 Service Bus queues, one event hub, and one event grid subscription to a single Serverless360 Business Application. You map the resources that work together.
Once set up, you have access to features that the support operator will find helpful. We have features like:
- Peek/Receive Message
- Repair and resubmit
- Manage dead lettered messages
- Automate some common operator tasks
- View metrics of these resources
One of the most significant benefits of Serverless360 is that you can provide the least privileged access to support these resources. Let us imagine that you have a Service Bus with 100 queues. You might have a support operator who looks after your order process but does not know anything about the other queues with your service bus namespace. One of the limitations of the Azure Portal is that it is designed for Azure Developers and Administrators. If you can access Service Bus, you act on all queues within the namespace. It is a significant risk to delegate support of just one queue to a support operator. With Serverless360, we can help you do this safely and securely.
Azure Functions are such a great feature in Azure. With Serverless360, we will allow you to map functions to a business application to be managed within that support context.
We will let you focus on the function apps which make up your business application. Your support operator will be able to perform the critical operator tasks they need to without having access to resources you don’t want them to and see how the functions are performing with our functions dashboard.
We feel that the support operator requirements for Data Factory are similar to Logic Apps. There will be executions of the pipelines that need to be easy to see what worked and what was a problem and then manage those errors and ensure everything is running smoothly.
With this in mind, we have features like:
- Action Required to help you see errors that the support operator hasn’t handled
- Favorites so you can mark a run of a pipeline so you can easily find it later
- A dashboard so you can easily see critical metrics on the performance of your pipelines
- Manage your triggers
Data Factory plays a crucial part in integrating bulk data moves to support ETL and ELT scenarios. We are trying to make those business-critical bulk data movements easier to manage.
Microsoft Azure has so many different types of resources, and we try to offer enhanced support features for the resources customers need help with. However, we often get requests for adhoc monitoring requirements for Azure Resources, which customers need to be part of the business application, but they don’t necessarily need advanced features; they want to monitor and picture a dashboard.
With this in mind, we introduced our Other Resource feature, which allows you to include pretty much any resource in Azure into our Serverless360 platform. A great example of using this would be if you were using a virtual machine as part of your solution. At Serverless360, we are unlikely to invest heavily in advanced features to support virtual machines because we have a PaaS and Serverless focus. Iaas has many existing vendors who do a great job in this space, but we recognize that a VM may be part of your solution. You might want your support operator to see how it is running to help ensure that the VM isn’t part of a problem affecting your integration solution. With this in mind, you could app a VM as another resource type. It will then let you create dashboards and alerts based on the metrics for the VM. You could perhaps create an alert for the VM if the CPU is heavily utilized, which could indicate to the support operator, you’re your order process that there may be a problem if the VM is an essential resource used by the order process.
Integration-based solutions usually have different requirements for data storage. We have support in Serverless360 for Azure SQL Database, Azure Storage, and CosmosDB with features that your support operator will find helpful for day to day operations of your solution.
The support operator will have access to critical metrics also.
Business Activity Monitoring
Our final feature within Serverless360, which I believe is very helpful for customers implementing Integration solutions, is Business Activity Monitoring (BAM). With BAM, it’s about enabling your business user to have visibility of the transactions within your integration solutions. Also, to safely perform self-service of those transactions without understanding the technologies implemented.
If we retake our order process, we can use BAM to implement the process and provide visibility to the user on how the execution of order transactions is performing. The user can search for and see what happened to orders and handle some errors without engaging with IT support.
BAM is an excellent feature for giving the business user confidence in your solution, and if you would like to find out more about it, we have a webinar that can show you how powerful it can be.
Hopefully, this article will give you a flavor of how Serverless360 can help you implement great integration solutions, such as those aligned to the reference architecture we discussed earlier. Our investments will also help customers implement other types of solutions. I will talk about some of our different reference architectures in future articles and how Serverless360 will help support them.