Converting Tick or Epoch to Timestamp in Logic App

DISCLAIMER: This post is purely a personal opinion, not representing or affiliating my employer’s.

While we are using Logic Apps, one of the most common things might be date/time conversion. In Logic App, there are two different ways to dealing date/time values. One is a ISO8601 style string value, timestamp, and the other is a 64-bit integer style value, tick. In addition to them, there are many chances to deal with epoch (or UNIX timestamp) values from the API connections. Those values need to be converted into one common format so that we can compare them to each other. Unfortunately, the conversion is not that intuitive in Logic App. In this post, I am going to show how to convert those date/time values from one format to the other.

Epoch

Epoch refers to various timestamp representation, but usually it is known as UNIX timestamp. In this post, we use the term, epoch, as UNIX timestamp. It is a 32-bit integer value starting from 0, which represents 1970-01-01T00:00:00Z. For example, 2018-09-10T12:34:56+11:00 is the epoch value of 1536543296, according to this online conversion page. As you can see, it can’t represent any date before 1970. It won’t be able to represent after January 19th, 2038 because epoch uses 32-bit integer value.

Ticks

On the other hand, tick uses 64-bit integer starting from 0, which represents 0001-01-01T00:00:00Z. In the tick world, 10 000 000 represents 1 second. Therefore, with this tick value, we control date/time value precisely. The same date/time value, 2018-09-10T12:34:56+11:00 is equivalent to the tick value of 636721400960000000.

Timestamp to Ticks

This conversion is easy in Logic App. Logic App has a built-in function, ticks(). Therefore, simply use this function like:

This Logic App action will return the tick value of 636721400960000000.

NOTE: Throughout this post, I intentionally use YAML to define Logic App workflow as a part of ARM template. If you want to know more about using YAML in ARM template, please have a look at this post, https://devkimchi.com/2018/08/07/writing-arm-templates-in-yaml/.

Timestamp to Epoch

OK, we’re now getting into a bit of tricky part. Basically, epoch value starts from 0, which is 1970-01-01T00:00:00Z, and there’s no way in Logic App to handle epoch values. But we know how to handle ticks. Therefore the trick is:

  1. Get the tick value from the given timestamp.
  2. Get the tick value of 1970-01-01T00:00:00Z, which is 621355968000000000.
  3. Get the difference between two.
  4. Divide the difference into 10 000 000.

The last Logic App action will return the epoch value of 1536543296.

Eopch to Timestamp

This is the interesting part. Many APIs return date/time values in UNIX timestamp format, which is epoch. For example, When you use Azure AD for your OAuth system, the access token response contains expiry date in UNIX timestamp format like:

Both expires_on and not_before contain the epoch value, which are not very human-friendly for reading. Therefore, sometimes there’s a requirement to convert them into a human-readable timestamp format like 2018-12-31T01:23:45.678Z. As mentioned above, there’s not direct way for this type of conversion in Logic App, but we have another function called addToTime() or addSeconds(). As the epoch value shows how many seconds has been elapsed since 1970-01-01T00:00:00Z, we can use either function like:

This will return the timestamp value of 2018-09-10T12:34:56+11:00.

NOTE: Make sure that epoch value is in UTC. If you want to have a your local value like “Australian Estern Standard Time (AEST)”, you need to add another function to the result like convertTimeZone(). But this won’t include the offset information, but only converted date/time value.

Ticks to Timestamp

One of the challenges using the built-in date/time functions in Logic App, addToTime() or addSeconds(), is it can only handle as precise as seconds, while ticks provide ten million times more accurate values, which we lose a certain level of precision. Let’s have a look. It’s really a combination of two – Ticks to Epoch, and Epoch to Timestamp. We already know the tick value of the day, 1970-01-01T00:00:00Z, which is 621355968000000000. Therefore, if any tick is given, say 636721400967890200, we can sort this out like below:

As a result, the last action returns the timestamp of 2018-09-10T01:34:56.0000000Z. Actually, the tick value of 636721400967890200 represents 2018-09-10T12:34:56.789012+11:00, which is 2018-09-10T01:34:56.789012Z and the converted value has lost the decimal part. This is a sort of downside of using this approach. But, if you are not too much fussed of this precision, this conversion will be really handy.


So far, we’ve walked through how to convert epoch value and/or tick value into ISO8601-complied and human-readable timestamp value. This is not that important, but really useful when you know how to do this.

If you want to see the complete Logic App workflow, find this out on this repository, https://github.com/devkimchi/DateTime-Conversions-in-Logic-App.