Azure functions – storage queue trigger

As I described in the previous blog post (in Norwegian), I’ve spent a few hours the last couple of days to set up a barcode scanner in our kitchen. The barcode scanner is attached to a raspberry pi and when a barcode is scanned, the barcode is pushed to an azure storage queue and the product eventually ends up in our kolonial.no shopping cart.

I’m using the project to familiarize myself with Azure Functions before utilizing them in customer projects, and I decided to use a storage queue triggered function to process incoming barcodes. Read more about storage queues at microsoft.com. They’re basically lightweight, high volume and low-maintenance distributed queues.

Creating the function

Before coding the function, it has to be set up as part of an Azure Function app. An azure function app is basically a special version of a web app. The app can be created either via the Azure Functions Portal or through the regular azure portal.

Side note: While working on this, the continuous depoyment of a totally unrelated app in the same azure subscription suddenly started failing when a powershell command tried to switch deployment slots, with the error message

Requested value 'Dynamic' was not found.

This had me scratching my head for quite some time, but some googling revealed that adding a function app to an existing subscription will (may?) break powershell functionality. The fix was to completely delete the function app. YMMV .

Once the app is set up, it’s time to create the function. As mentioned, we want an azure storage queue triggered function, and I opted for C#:

create-azure-function-storage-trigger.png

Selecting the trigger type will reveal a few options below the “Choose a template” grid:

name-function

Here we give the function a descriptive name and enter the name of an existing queue (or a new one) in the “Queue name” field. The storage account connection field is a drop down of the storage accounts available. It obviously needs to be set to the storage account we want the  queue to be stored in. Once we click create, the function is added to the function app, and it will be triggered (executed) every time a new message is added to the storage queue “incoming-barcodes”. This configuration (queue name, storage accouht) can be changed at any time by clicking “Integrate” beneath the function name in the function portal:

integrate.png

The next step is to actually write the function. In this first version, everything is done in one function call, and we’re only covering the happy path: we assume the kolonial account exists, that the password is correct and that the product exists. If not, the message will end up in the poison queue or just log a warning message. A natural next step would be to alert the user that any errors occured, but that’s for another day.

The default entry point for the function is a static method called “Run” (I realize that RunAsync would be more correct with regards to naming async methods, but I’m sticking as close as I can to the defaults):

First, we extract the raspberry ID and barcode from the incoming message with a small data transport class (IncomingBarcode), since the barcode is passed to the function by the raspberry pi on the format “rpi-id:barcode”.

The kolonial API needs to be set up with a user agent and a token, and in order to access a specific user’s cart we also need to get a user session. That’s all handled by the CreateKolonialHttpClientAsync function:

As can be seen in the gist above, configuration values are handled just as in regular .net code, by utilizing the ConfigurationManager. The settings themselves are set via the function app settings:

app-settings
Navigating to the app settings: Function app settings -> Configure app settings…
appsettigns
…and then adding the setting as usual (you’ll recognize the settings blade from ordinary azure web apps).

Once the connection/session to kolonial.no is set up, we attempt to get the product by its bar code. I’ve separated the “get product from kolonial and transform it to a model I need” part into a separate http triggered azure function, which I’ll cover later, so there’s not a whole lot of logic needed; if the function returns a non-null json, the barcode is a valid kolonial product which is returned, if not we return null.

As can be seen in the Run method, all that’s left to do when the product exists, is to add it to the cart. This is done by POSTing to the /cart/items endpoint:

That’s all there is to it.

Dev notes

I tried setting the project up in Visual Studio, but the development experience for Azure Functions leaves a lot to be desired (the tools are still in beta), so I ended up coding the function in the function portal.

Testing a storage queue triggered function is actually pretty easy. I used the Azure Storage Explorer to manually add entries to the queue when developing.

When working with REST APIs, I like to have strongly typed models to work with. An easy way to create them, is the paste example JSON responses into http://json2csharp.com/, which will create C# classes for you.

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