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Passing Values to a Orchestrator function in durable functions

Passing Values to a Orchestrator function in durable functions

So I wanted to get a short post out here on a handy little trick that I actually had a pretty hard time finding the answer to. So I’ve been doing work with Durable functions lately in Python, and really enjoy the possible options this opens up for longer running or complex server-less operations.

That being said, I did run into a headache early on in the form of how do I pass values from the initial request to the other parts of the function. So here’s a short post on how to do that so that hopefully the next person doesn’t have as hard of a time finding the answer.

So when you have a durable function, you essentially get 3+ pieces, but at the minimum its 3 pieces.

  • HttpStart: This is the code that receives all Http requests for durable functions and then acts as a router, to push them to the correct Orchestrator.
  • Orchestrator: This is the function that will be longer running and used to manage state ongoing.
  • Activity: These are the smaller functions that are called upon by the orchestrator to do the work being asked for.

Now the problem is that normally I would pull from an http request in a function in the following way:

async def main(req: func.HttpRequest, starter: str) -> func.HttpResponse:
    payload = json.loads(req.get_body().decode())"Trigger payload = {payload}")

See though the problem with this is that the actual request that kicked off the function is only accessible to the HttpStart. So now, you need to figure out a way to pass this to the orchestrator, and if I’m being honest, the best way to do that isn’t clear.

Part of the reason it isn’t clear, is that Durable functions do a lot of work to encapsulate the inner workings of how they manage state. Which I’m thankful for, but it made this harder.

But after much head-scratching, if I figured it out, and here it is:

async def main(req: func.HttpRequest, starter: str) -> func.HttpResponse:
    client = df.DurableOrchestrationClient(starter)

    function_name = req.route_params["functionName"]
    requestBody = json.loads(req.get_body().decode())
    instance_id = await client.start_new(function_name, client_input=requestBody)

Now when you use core tools, all the wiring is pre-built for you. Strongly recommend that. But if you leverage the “client_input” parameter off the DurableOrchestrationClient, you can pass a json serialized paylod over to the orchestrator.

From the orchestrator’s side, the code looks like the following:

requestBody : str = context.get_input()

Now one of the limitations I found was that you could only pass one parameter this way, so the easy workaround was to implement a complex object that I would then serialize containing all relevant data.

Running Entity Framework Migrations in VSTS Release with Azure Functions

Running Entity Framework Migrations in VSTS Release with Azure Functions

Hello All, I hope your having a good week, I wanted to write up a problem I just solved that I can’t be the only one. For me, I’m a big fan of Entity Framework, and specifically Code First Migrations. Now its not perfect for every solution, but I will say that it does provide a method of versioning and controlling database changes in an more elegant method.

Now one of the problems I’ve run into before is that how do you leverage a dev ops pipeline with migrations. The question becomes how do you trigger the migrations to execute as part of an automated release. And this can be a pretty sticky situation if you’ve ever tried to unbox it. The most common answer is this.  Which is in itself, a fine solution.

But one scenario that I’ve run into where this doesn’t always play out, is the scenario where because the above link executes on App_Start, it can cause a slowdown for the first users, of in the scenario of load balancing can cause a performance issue when it hits that method of running the migration.  And to me, from a Dev Ops perspective, this doesn’t feel really that “clean” as I would like to deploy my database changes at the same time as my app, and know that when it says “Finished” everything is done and successful.  By leveraging this approach you run the risk of a “false positive” saying that it was successful even when it wasn’t, as the migrations will fail with the first user.

So an alternative I wrote was to create an azure function to provide an Http endpoint, that allows for me to trigger the migrations to execute.  Under this approach I can make an http call from my release pipeline, and execute the migrations in a controlled state, and if its going to fail, it will happen within my deployment rather than after.

Below is the code I leveraged in the azure function:

public static async Task<HttpResponseMessage> Run([HttpTrigger(AuthorizationLevel.Function, "post", Route = null)]HttpRequestMessage req, TraceWriter log)
log.Info("Run Migration");

bool isSuccessful = true;
string resultMessage = string.Empty;

//Get security key
string key = req.GetQueryNameValuePairs()
.FirstOrDefault(q => string.Compare(q.Key, "key", true) == 0)

var keyRecord = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["MigrationKey"];
if (key != keyRecord)
throw new ArgumentException("Key Mismatch, disregarding request");

Database.SetInitializer(new MigrateDatabaseToLatestVersion<ApplicationDataContext, Data.Migrations.Configuration>());

var dbContext = new ApplicationDataContext();


//var list = dbContext.Settings.ToList();
catch (Exception ex)
isSuccessful = false;
resultMessage = ex.Message;
log.Info("Error: " + ex.Message);

return isSuccessful == false
? req.CreateResponse(HttpStatusCode.BadRequest, "Error: " + resultMessage)
: req.CreateResponse(HttpStatusCode.OK, "Migrationed Completed, Database updated");

Now a couple of quick things to note as you look at the code:
Line 12:  I am extracting a querystring parameter called “key” and then in line 16, I am getting the “MigrationKey” from the Functions App Settings.  The purpose of  this is to quickly secure the azure function.  This function is looking for a querystring value that matches the app settings value to allow the triggering of the migrations.  This prevents just anyone from hitting the endpoint.  I can then secure this value within my release management tool to pass as part of the http request.

Lines 22-26: this is what actually triggers the migration to execute by creating a context and setting the initializer.

Line 37: Allows for handling the response code that is sent back to the client for the http request.  This allows me to throw an error within my release management tool if necessary.