Azure Functions custom handlers

Every Functions app is executed by a language-specific handler. While Azure Functions supports many language handlers by default, there are cases where you may want to use other languages or runtimes.

Custom handlers are lightweight web servers that receive events from the Functions host. Any language that supports HTTP primitives can implement a custom handler.

Custom handlers are best suited for situations where you want to:

  • Implement a function app in a language that's not currently supported, such as Go or Rust.
  • Implement a function app in a runtime that's not currently supported, such as Deno.

With custom handlers, you can use triggers and input and output bindings via extension bundles.

Get started with Azure Functions custom handlers with quickstarts in Go and Rust.

Overview

The following diagram shows the relationship between the Functions host and a web server implemented as a custom handler.

Azure Functions custom handler overview

  1. Each event triggers a request sent to the Functions host. An event is any trigger that is supported by Azure Functions.
  2. The Functions host then issues a request payload to the web server. The payload holds trigger and input binding data and other metadata for the function.
  3. The web server executes the individual function, and returns a response payload to the Functions host.
  4. The Functions host passes data from the response to the function's output bindings for processing.

An Azure Functions app implemented as a custom handler must configure the host.json, local.settings.json, and function.json files according to a few conventions.

Application structure

To implement a custom handler, you need the following aspects to your application:

  • A host.json file at the root of your app
  • A local.settings.json file at the root of your app
  • A function.json file for each function (inside a folder that matches the function name)
  • A command, script, or executable, which runs a web server

The following diagram shows how these files look on the file system for a function named "MyQueueFunction" and an custom handler executable named handler.exe.

| /MyQueueFunction
|   function.json
|
| host.json
| local.settings.json
| handler.exe

Configuration

The application is configured via the host.json and local.settings.json files.

host.json

host.json tells the Functions host where to send requests by pointing to a web server capable of processing HTTP events.

A custom handler is defined by configuring the host.json file with details on how to run the web server via the customHandler section.

{
  "version": "2.0",
  "customHandler": {
    "description": {
      "defaultExecutablePath": "handler.exe"
    }
  }
}

The customHandler section points to a target as defined by the defaultExecutablePath. The execution target may either be a command, executable, or file where the web server is implemented.

Use the arguments array to pass any arguments to the executable. Arguments support expansion of environment variables (application settings) using %% notation.

You can also change the working directory used by the executable with workingDirectory.

{
  "version": "2.0",
  "customHandler": {
    "description": {
      "defaultExecutablePath": "app/handler.exe",
      "arguments": [
        "--database-connection-string",
        "%DATABASE_CONNECTION_STRING%"
      ],
      "workingDirectory": "app"
    }
  }
}
Bindings support

Standard triggers along with input and output bindings are available by referencing extension bundles in your host.json file.

local.settings.json

local.settings.json defines application settings used when running the function app locally. As it may contain secrets, local.settings.json should be excluded from source control. In Azure, use application settings instead.

For custom handlers, set FUNCTIONS_WORKER_RUNTIME to Custom in local.settings.json.

{
  "IsEncrypted": false,
  "Values": {
    "FUNCTIONS_WORKER_RUNTIME": "Custom"
  }
}

Function metadata

When used with a custom handler, the function.json contents are no different from how you would define a function under any other context. The only requirement is that function.json files must be in a folder named to match the function name.

The following function.json configures a function that has a queue trigger and a queue output binding. Because it's in a folder named MyQueueFunction, it defines a function named MyQueueFunction.

MyQueueFunction/function.json

{
  "bindings": [
    {
      "name": "myQueueItem",
      "type": "queueTrigger",
      "direction": "in",
      "queueName": "messages-incoming",
      "connection": "AzureWebJobsStorage"
    },
    {
      "name": "$return",
      "type": "queue",
      "direction": "out",
      "queueName": "messages-outgoing",
      "connection": "AzureWebJobsStorage"
    }
  ]
}

Request payload

When a queue message is received, the Functions host sends an HTTP post request to the custom handler with a payload in the body.

The following code represents a sample request payload. The payload includes a JSON structure with two members: Data and Metadata.

The Data member includes keys that match input and trigger names as defined in the bindings array in the function.json file.

The Metadata member includes metadata generated from the event source.

{
  "Data": {
    "myQueueItem": "{ message: \"Message sent\" }"
  },
  "Metadata": {
    "DequeueCount": 1,
    "ExpirationTime": "2019-10-16T17:58:31+00:00",
    "Id": "800ae4b3-bdd2-4c08-badd-f08e5a34b865",
    "InsertionTime": "2019-10-09T17:58:31+00:00",
    "NextVisibleTime": "2019-10-09T18:08:32+00:00",
    "PopReceipt": "AgAAAAMAAAAAAAAAAgtnj8x+1QE=",
    "sys": {
      "MethodName": "QueueTrigger",
      "UtcNow": "2019-10-09T17:58:32.2205399Z",
      "RandGuid": "24ad4c06-24ad-4e5b-8294-3da9714877e9"
    }
  }
}

Response payload

By convention, function responses are formatted as key/value pairs. Supported keys include:

Payload key Data type Remarks
Outputs object Holds response values as defined by the bindings array in function.json.

For instance, if a function is configured with a queue output binding named "myQueueOutput", then Outputs contains a key named myQueueOutput, which is set by the custom handler to the messages that are sent to the queue.
Logs array Messages appear in the Functions invocation logs.

When running in Azure, messages appear in Application Insights.
ReturnValue string Used to provide a response when an output is configured as $return in the function.json file.

This is an example of a response payload.

{
  "Outputs": {
    "res": {
      "body": "Message enqueued"
    },
    "myQueueOutput": [
      "queue message 1",
      "queue message 2"
    ]
  },
  "Logs": [
    "Log message 1",
    "Log message 2"
  ],
  "ReturnValue": "{\"hello\":\"world\"}"
}

Examples

Custom handlers can be implemented in any language that supports receiving HTTP events. The following examples show how to implement a custom handler using the Go programming language.

Function with bindings

The scenario implemented in this example features a function named order that accepts a POST with a payload representing a product order. As an order is posted to the function, a Queue Storage message is created and an HTTP response is returned.

Implementation

In a folder named order, the function.json file configures the HTTP-triggered function.

order/function.json

{
  "bindings": [
    {
      "type": "httpTrigger",
      "direction": "in",
      "name": "req",
      "methods": ["post"]
    },
    {
      "type": "http",
      "direction": "out",
      "name": "res"
    },
    {
      "type": "queue",
      "name": "message",
      "direction": "out",
      "queueName": "orders",
      "connection": "AzureWebJobsStorage"
    }
  ]
}

This function is defined as an HTTP triggered function that returns an HTTP response and outputs a Queue storage message.

At the root of the app, the host.json file is configured to run an executable file named handler.exe (handler in Linux or macOS).

{
  "version": "2.0",
  "customHandler": {
    "description": {
      "defaultExecutablePath": "handler.exe"
    }
  },
  "extensionBundle": {
    "id": "Microsoft.Azure.Functions.ExtensionBundle",
    "version": "[1.*, 2.0.0)"
  }
}

This is the HTTP request sent to the Functions runtime.

POST http://127.0.0.1:7071/api/order HTTP/1.1
Content-Type: application/json

{
  "id": 1005,
  "quantity": 2,
  "color": "black"
}

The Functions runtime will then send the following HTTP request to the custom handler:

POST http://127.0.0.1:<FUNCTIONS_CUSTOMHANDLER_PORT>/order HTTP/1.1
Content-Type: application/json

{
  "Data": {
    "req": {
      "Url": "http://localhost:7071/api/order",
      "Method": "POST",
      "Query": "{}",
      "Headers": {
        "Content-Type": [
          "application/json"
        ]
      },
      "Params": {},
      "Body": "{\"id\":1005,\"quantity\":2,\"color\":\"black\"}"
    }
  },
  "Metadata": {
  }
}

Note

Some portions of the payload were removed for brevity.

handler.exe is the compiled Go custom handler program that runs a web server and responds to function invocation requests from the Functions host.

package main

import (
	"encoding/json"
	"fmt"
	"log"
	"net/http"
	"os"
)

type InvokeRequest struct {
	Data     map[string]json.RawMessage
	Metadata map[string]interface{}
}

type InvokeResponse struct {
	Outputs     map[string]interface{}
	Logs        []string
	ReturnValue interface{}
}

func orderHandler(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
	var invokeRequest InvokeRequest

	d := json.NewDecoder(r.Body)
	d.Decode(&invokeRequest)

	var reqData map[string]interface{}
	json.Unmarshal(invokeRequest.Data["req"], &reqData)

	outputs := make(map[string]interface{})
	outputs["message"] = reqData["Body"]

	resData := make(map[string]interface{})
	resData["body"] = "Order enqueued"
	outputs["res"] = resData
	invokeResponse := InvokeResponse{outputs, nil, nil}

	responseJson, _ := json.Marshal(invokeResponse)

	w.Header().Set("Content-Type", "application/json")
	w.Write(responseJson)
}

func main() {
	customHandlerPort, exists := os.LookupEnv("FUNCTIONS_CUSTOMHANDLER_PORT")
	if !exists {
		customHandlerPort = "8080"
	}
	mux := http.NewServeMux()
	mux.HandleFunc("/order", orderHandler)
	fmt.Println("Go server Listening on: ", customHandlerPort)
	log.Fatal(http.ListenAndServe(":"+customHandlerPort, mux))
}

In this example, the custom handler runs a web server to handle HTTP events and is set to listen for requests via the FUNCTIONS_CUSTOMHANDLER_PORT.

Even though the Functions host received original HTTP request at /api/order, it invokes the custom handler using the function name (its folder name). In this example, the function is defined at the path of /order. The host sends the custom handler an HTTP request at the path of /order.

As POST requests are sent to this function, the trigger data and function metadata are available via the HTTP request body. The original HTTP request body can be accessed in the payload's Data.req.Body.

The function's response is formatted into key/value pairs where the Outputs member holds a JSON value where the keys match the outputs as defined in the function.json file.

This is an example payload that this handler returns to the Functions host.

{
  "Outputs": {
    "message": "{\"id\":1005,\"quantity\":2,\"color\":\"black\"}",
    "res": {
      "body": "Order enqueued"
    }
  },
  "Logs": null,
  "ReturnValue": null
}

By setting the message output equal to the order data that came in from the request, the function outputs that order data to the configured queue. The Functions host also returns the HTTP response configured in res to the caller.

HTTP-only function

For HTTP-triggered functions with no additional bindings or outputs, you may want your handler to work directly with the HTTP request and response instead of the custom handler request and response payloads. This behavior can be configured in host.json using the enableForwardingHttpRequest setting.

Important

The primary purpose of the custom handlers feature is to enable languages and runtimes that do not currently have first-class support on Azure Functions. While it may be possible to run web applications using custom handlers, Azure Functions is not a standard reverse proxy. Some features such as response streaming, HTTP/2, and WebSockets are not available. Some components of the HTTP request such as certain headers and routes may be restricted. Your application may also experience excessive cold start.

To address these circumstances, consider running your web apps on Azure App Service.

The following example demonstrates how to configure an HTTP-triggered function with no additional bindings or outputs. The scenario implemented in this example features a function named hello that accepts a GET or POST .

Implementation

In a folder named hello, the function.json file configures the HTTP-triggered function.

hello/function.json

{
  "bindings": [
    {
      "type": "httpTrigger",
      "authLevel": "anonymous",
      "direction": "in",
      "name": "req",
      "methods": ["get", "post"]
    },
    {
      "type": "http",
      "direction": "out",
      "name": "res"
    }
  ]
}

The function is configured to accept both GET and POST requests and the result value is provided via an argument named res.

At the root of the app, the host.json file is configured to run handler.exe and enableForwardingHttpRequest is set to true.

{
  "version": "2.0",
  "customHandler": {
    "description": {
      "defaultExecutablePath": "handler.exe"
    },
    "enableForwardingHttpRequest": true
  }
}

When enableForwardingHttpRequest is true, the behavior of HTTP-only functions differs from the default custom handlers behavior in these ways:

  • The HTTP request does not contain the custom handlers request payload. Instead, the Functions host invokes the handler with a copy of the original HTTP request.
  • The Functions host invokes the handler with the same path as the original request including any query string parameters.
  • The Functions host returns a copy of the handler's HTTP response as the response to the original request.

The following is a POST request to the Functions host. The Functions host then sends a copy of the request to the custom handler at the same path.

POST http://127.0.0.1:7071/api/hello HTTP/1.1
Content-Type: application/json

{
  "message": "Hello World!"
}

The file handler.go file implements a web server and HTTP function.

package main

import (
	"fmt"
	"io/ioutil"
	"log"
	"net/http"
	"os"
)

func helloHandler(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
	w.Header().Set("Content-Type", "application/json")
	if r.Method == "GET" {
		w.Write([]byte("hello world"))
	} else {
		body, _ := ioutil.ReadAll(r.Body)
		w.Write(body)
	}
}

func main() {
	customHandlerPort, exists := os.LookupEnv("FUNCTIONS_CUSTOMHANDLER_PORT")
	if !exists {
		customHandlerPort = "8080"
	}
	mux := http.NewServeMux()
	mux.HandleFunc("/api/hello", helloHandler)
	fmt.Println("Go server Listening on: ", customHandlerPort)
	log.Fatal(http.ListenAndServe(":"+customHandlerPort, mux))
}

In this example, the custom handler creates a web server to handle HTTP events and is set to listen for requests via the FUNCTIONS_CUSTOMHANDLER_PORT.

GET requests are handled by returning a string, and POST requests have access to the request body.

The route for the order function here is /api/hello, same as the original request.

Note

The FUNCTIONS_CUSTOMHANDLER_PORT is not the public facing port used to call the function. This port is used by the Functions host to call the custom handler.

Deploying

A custom handler can be deployed to every Azure Functions hosting option. If your handler requires operating system or platform dependencies (such as a language runtime), you may need to use a custom container.

When creating a function app in Azure for custom handlers, we recommend you select .NET Core as the stack. A "Custom" stack for custom handlers will be added in the future.

To deploy a custom handler app using Azure Functions Core Tools, run the following command.

func azure functionapp publish $functionAppName

Note

Ensure all files required to run your custom handler are in the folder and included in the deployment. If your custom handler is a binary executable or has platform-specific dependencies, ensure these files match the target deployment platform.

Restrictions

  • The custom handler web server needs to start within 60 seconds.

Samples

Refer to the custom handler samples GitHub repo for examples of how to implement functions in a variety of different languages.

Troubleshooting and support

Trace logging

If your custom handler process fails to start up or if it has problems communicating with the Functions host, you can increase the function app's log level to Trace to see more diagnostic messages from the host.

To change the function app's default log level, configure the logLevel setting in the logging section of host.json.

{
  "version": "2.0",
  "customHandler": {
    "description": {
      "defaultExecutablePath": "handler.exe"
    }
  },
  "logging": {
    "logLevel": {
      "default": "Trace"
    }
  }
}

The Functions host outputs extra log messages including information related to the custom handler process. Use the logs to investigate problems starting your custom handler process or invoking functions in your custom handler.

Locally, logs are printed to the console.

In Azure, query Application Insights traces to view the log messages. If your app produces a high volume of logs, only a subset of log messages are sent to Application Insights. Disable sampling to ensure all messages are logged.

Test custom handler in isolation

Custom handler apps are a web server process, so it may be helpful to start it on its own and test function invocations by sending mock HTTP requests using a tool like cURL or Postman.

You can also use this strategy in your CI/CD pipelines to run automated tests on your custom handler.

Execution environment

Custom handlers run in the same environment as a typical Azure Functions app. Test your handler to ensure the environment contains all the dependencies it needs to run. For apps that require additional dependencies, you may need to run them using a custom container image hosted on Azure Functions Premium plan.

Get support

If you need help on a function app with custom handlers, you can submit a request through regular support channels. However, due to the wide variety of possible languages used to build custom handlers apps, support is not unlimited.

Support is available if the Functions host has problems starting or communicating with the custom handler process. For problems specific to the inner workings of your custom handler process, such as issues with the chosen language or framework, our Support Team is unable to provide assistance in this context.

Next steps

Get started building an Azure Functions app in Go or Rust with the custom handlers quickstart.