In this blog post, I’m going to discuss the new feature currently in public preview – “Connection References (Preview).” This feature was released to maintain a level of abstraction between flows and the connections they are using. Connection references come in handy when a user wants to move across environments, update the flow definitions, or automate the deployment using pipelines for secure and healthy ALM.

A connection reference is a component of the solution that contains information about a connector. Both actions within a Power Automate flow and Canvas Application bind to a connection reference. You can import your connection reference into a target environment with no further configuration needed after the import is successful. To change a specific connection associated with a Power Automate Flow or Canvas Application, you can edit the connection reference component within the solution. Firstly, we need to understand how flows and connections are associated with each other. Every action inside a flow is bound to a connection that it uses for the “Execution.” Users need to rebind every operation for the connection after import across the environments (Overriding all the customizations). Below is the image reference for the same.

Rebinding every action to a connection

If we look at the larger view, it seems to be like a scenario defined by the below image.

Larger view at connection reference

When we move flows (part of the solution) across the environments, all links between the triggers, actions, and the connection are severed. We need to rebind all the links as soon as the import is successful in the target environment. But in the case of the “Connection Reference,” it provides the abstraction layer between the actions and the connections. As soon as we move across, the solutions link between the actions & connection references severed, but connection reference and connection remain intact. So, after the import is successful, it will automatically make links of the actions with the connection reference of the target environment, thus avoiding all the rebinding & reconfiguration.

Mostly, users get confused between CDS connectors’ current environment and using connection reference for the CDS connector. Are they the same, or are they different? A CDS current environment connector provides access to the org-based database on Microsoft Common Data Service in the current environment. We can use this connector to connect to the database and perform various operations on data using the connection to the backend provided by this connector. Coming onto “Connection References,” they act as a variable that contains information about the connectors. It includes the name of the connector we are using as well as the connection to that connector. So, both of them are different concepts.

Demo describing the use of the “Connection References (Preview)”

  1. Go inside your sample solution. Create a connection reference by clicking on “New”. Fill out the required details.
    Demo Step 1 Step 1 New Connection
  2. Inside the solution, there is a flow using the connection of any user as a direct connection which was prior connection reference was introduced. And have created a new flow using the connection reference created in step – 1.
    Without Reference

    Without a Connection Reference
    Demo Step 4

    With Connection Reference 

  3. Import the solution to the target environment. During the import, it will ask for the connection reference to be used in the target environment. Select one from the list or create a new one at the time of the import and select import.
    Demo Step 3 Import Solution
  4. Now make some changes to the solution in Dev Env. After you make certain changes and want to re-import the solution again to target env by overriding the customizations. You will observe the impacts on the two different flow in the following way.
    Demo Step 4 With

Without a Connection Reference

Demo Step 4 With

With a Connection Reference

The flow with the direct reference to connections users needs to rebind all the connections of every action. In contrast, inflow using the “Connection Reference,” all connections are set up automatically. There is not to reconfigure the flow after the import. If you want to update the connection reference (if your reference account has an issue) in the target environment and your solution is managed in the target environment.

Follow the below steps:
Go to: Default > Filter by Connection Reference (Preview) > Select your connection reference> Update the selected Connection reference > Make a new connection > Save And Close.


While connection references are in preview, one connection reference can be used within a maximum of 16 flows. If the same connection needs to be used in more than 16 flows, then create another connection reference with a connection to the same connector. There is no limit to the number of actions in each flow associated with the connection reference. Thank you for reading!