First look: Microsoft’s API mashup tool for the rest of us

Microsoft Flow makes it easy for anyone to string together inputs, outputs, and actions into simple applications

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Not all cloud applications need to be cloud-scale. They’re often simple routing and switching apps that take information from one source, process it minimally, then pass it on. That’s where tools like IFTTT and Yahoo Pipes came into play, allowing you to quickly build and share information flows that linked one service to another. Sadly, Yahoo Pipes has been shut down, and IFTTT has concentrated on simple links to the Internet of things.

That means there’s space in the market for a new tool -- one focused on working with applications and services, and capable of handling more complex chains of operations than IFTTT’s basic one input to one output mapping. You could build microservices on Node.js to automate these sorts of connections between applications and between APIs, but that would be overkill. So would Azure Logic Apps or AWS Lambda.

Alongside the launch of its new visual development tool, PowerApps, Microsoft recently unveiled its new connection-based development tool, Flow. Like IFTTT and Pipes, Flow is designed to help you quickly hook together outputs and inputs to build applications that are triggered by an event on an input, and deliver responses to one or more services. Where IFTTT could scan a stream of tweets and save specific content to a file, Flow can take an input and use it as the basis for a more complex flow of information, querying multiple information sources and handling multiple actions as a result.

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