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Watch this video for an overview of serverless computing.

As mentioned in the video, serverless computing is a cloud-hosted execution environment that runs your code but abstracts the underlying hosting environment. The term serverless computing is a misnomer. After all, there is a server (or a group of servers) that executes your code or desired functionality.

The key idea is that you're not responsible for setting up or maintaining the server. You don't have to worry about scaling it when there's increased demand, and you don't have to worry about outages. The cloud vendor takes care of all maintenance and scaling concerns for you.

You create an instance of the service, and you then add your code. No infrastructure configuration or maintenance is required, or even allowed. You configure your serverless apps to respond to events. An event could be a REST endpoint, a periodic timer, or even a message received from another Azure service. The serverless app runs only when it's triggered by an event. Scaling and performance are handled automatically, and you're billed only for the resources you use. You don't even need to reserve resources.

Serverless computing is ordinarily used to handle back-end scenarios. In other words, serverless computing is responsible for sending messages from one system to another, or processing messages that were sent from other systems. It's not used for user-facing systems but, rather, it works in the background.

In this module, we'll cover two Azure serverless computing services: Azure Functions and Azure Logic Apps.

Azure Functions

With the Azure Functions service, you can host a single method or function by using a popular programming language in the cloud that runs in response to an event. An example of an event might be an HTTP request, a new message on a queue, or a message on a timer.

Because of its atomic nature, Azure Functions can serve many purposes in an application's design. Functions can be written in many common programming languages, such as C#, Python, JavaScript, Typescript, Java, and PowerShell.

Azure Functions scales automatically, and charges accrue only when a function is triggered. These qualities make Azure Functions a solid choice when demand is variable. For example, you might be receiving messages from an IoT solution that monitors a fleet of delivery vehicles. You'll likely have more data arriving during business hours. Azure Functions can scale out to accommodate these busier times.

An Azure function is a stateless environment. A function behaves as if it's restarted every time it responds to an event. This feature is ideal for processing incoming data. And if state is required, the function can be connected to an Azure storage account.

Azure Functions can perform orchestration tasks by using an extension called Durable Functions, which allow developers to chain functions together while maintaining state.

The Azure Functions solution is ideal when you're concerned only with the code that's running your service and not the underlying platform or infrastructure. You use Azure Functions most commonly when you need to perform work in response to an event. You do this often via a REST request, timer, or message from another Azure service, and when that work can be completed quickly, within seconds or less.

Azure Logic Apps

Logic Apps is a low-code/no-code development platform hosted as a cloud service. The service helps you automate and orchestrate tasks, business processes, and workflows when you need to integrate apps, data, systems, and services across enterprises or organizations. Logic Apps simplifies how you design and build scalable solutions, whether in the cloud, on-premises, or both. This solution covers app integration, data integration, system integration, enterprise application integration (EAI), and business-to-business (B2B) integration.

Azure Logic Apps is designed in a web-based designer and can execute logic that's triggered by Azure services without writing any code. You build an app by linking triggers to actions with connectors. A trigger is an event (such as a timer) that causes an app to execute, then a new message to be sent to a queue, or an HTTP request. An action is a task or step that can execute. There are logic actions such as those you would find in most programming languages. Examples of actions include working with variables, decision statements and loops, and tasks that parse and modify data.

To build enterprise integration solutions with Azure Logic Apps, you can choose from a growing gallery of over 200 connectors. The gallery includes services such as Salesforce, SAP, Oracle DB, and file shares.

If you can't find the action or connector you need, you can build your own by using custom code.

What are the differences between these services?

You can call Azure Functions from Azure Logic Apps, and vice versa. The primary difference between the two services is their intent. Azure Functions is a serverless compute service, and Azure Logic Apps is intended to be a serverless orchestration service. Although you can use Azure Functions to orchestrate a long-running business process that involves various connections, this was not its primary use case when it was designed.

Additionally, the two services are priced differently. Azure Functions pricing is based on the number of executions and the running time of each execution. Logic Apps pricing is based on the number of executions and the type of connectors that it utilizes.