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2 min read

Move flows across environments without resetting connections!

Today, I am really excited to announce the public preview of “Connection References”. We are introducing this new concept, to make it easier for customers to maintain a level of abstraction between flows and the connections used by them. Connection references are particularly useful when moving flows across environments, updating flow definitions, automating deployment pipelines for secure, and healthy Application Lifecycle Management.

A couple of things to keep in mind before we dive deeper:

This new feature is only available for “Solution-Aware” flows, as it relies on the solution framework provided by the Common Data Service instance. Learn more about solutions in Power Platform.

To understand, how connection references work, it is important to understand how flows and connections are associated with each other.

Without connection references – every action in your flow is bound to a specific instance of a connection that it will use to “execute” that action. This is why today, while moving flows across environments – users are required to rebind every operation to a connection.

[Connections contain secrets, and therefore can’t be moved across environments]

Visualizing this across multiple flows – you may have something as follows, where each dotted line indicates – a link that requires rebinding after importing or updating a flow via a solution.

Flows without connection references

When you move flows across environments – all the links shown by dotted lines are severed. This means in the above example without connection references, users are required to rebind each of these six links between flow operations and connections after performing an update or import.

Connection references provides an abstraction layer between resources (like flows and canvas apps) and the connections they use, and has durable dependency tracking across environments. This means you will only need to setup your connection references once per environment!

Another added benefit of this feature is that if you ever need to swap out connections, you will only have to do it once – by updating the connection reference to a different connection (as opposed to updating every operation).

Please note, during the preview – there is a limitation of reusing a connection reference in up to 16 flows only. This limitation will be removed as the feature becomes generally available.

Flows with Connection References

Using Connection References

If you’re building a new solution-aware flow, connection references will automatically be created for you.

Users are also able to create connection references independently, from the +New menu in the solution explorer.

 

In summary,

  • Connection references are a new concept that is preview, for Solution-aware flows. It’s primary function is to allow for healthy ALM for resources that rely on connections, within the solutions framework.
  • Updating the value of a connection reference will automatically update the flows using the connection reference.
  • Connection references offer semantic value with editable display names and descriptions. Eg – A connection reference named “Service Account” can point to a connection named “svcaccount1@contoso.com”; this provides for improved discovery, selection and organization of connections.
  • Canvas apps also support connection references! Learn more

If you have any feedback or questions, please leave them in the comments section below.