Amazon Simple Workflow Service
Developer Guide (API Version 2012-01-25)

Developing Deciders in Amazon SWF

A decider is an implementation of the coordination logic of your workflow type that runs during the execution of your workflow. You can run multiple deciders for a single workflow type.

Because the execution state for a workflow execution is stored in its workflow history, deciders can be stateless. Amazon SWF maintains the workflow execution history and provides it to a decider with each decision task. This enables you to dynamically add and remove deciders as necessary, which makes the processing of your workflows highly scalable. As the load on your system grows, you simply add more deciders to handle the increased capacity. Note, however, that there can be only one decision task open at any time for a given workflow execution.

Every time a state change occurs for a workflow execution, Amazon SWF schedules a decision task. Each time a decider receives a decision task, it does the following:

  • Interprets the workflow execution history provided with the decision task

  • Applies the coordination logic based on the workflow execution history and makes decisions on what to do next. Each decision is represented by a Decision structure

  • Completes the decision task and provides a list of decisions to Amazon SWF.

This section describes how to develop a decider, which involves:

  • Programming your decider to poll for decision tasks

  • Programming your decider to interpret the workflow execution history and make decisions

  • Programming your decider to respond to a decision task.

The examples in this section show how you might program a decider for the e-commerce example workflow.

You can implement the decider in any language that you like and run it anywhere, as long as it can communicate with Amazon SWF through its service API.

Defining Coordination Logic

The first thing to do when developing a decider is to define the coordination logic. In the e-commerce example, coordination logic that schedules each activity after the previous activity completes might look similar to the following:

IF lastEvent = "StartWorkflowInstance" addToDecisions ScheduleVerifyOrderActivity ELSIF lastEvent = "CompleteVerifyOrderActivity" addToDecisions ScheduleChargeCreditCardActivity ELSIF lastEvent = "CompleteChargeCreditCardActivity" addToDecisions ScheduleCompleteShipOrderActivity ELSIF lastEvent = "CompleteShipOrderActivity" addToDecisions ScheduleRecordOrderCompletion ELSIF lastEvent = "CompleteRecordOrderCompletion" addToDecisions CloseWorkflow ENDIF

The decider applies the coordination logic to the workflow execution history, and creates a list of decisions when completing the decision task using the RespondDecisionTaskCompleted action.

Polling for Decision Tasks

Each decider polls for decision tasks. The decision tasks contain the information that the decider uses to generate decisions such as scheduling activity tasks. To poll for decision tasks, the decider uses the PollForDecisionTask action.

In this example, the decider polls for a decision task, specifying the customerOrderWorkflow-0.1 tasklist.

Copy PollForDecisionTask { "domain": "867530901", "taskList": {"name": "customerOrderWorkflow-v0.1"}, "identity": "Decider01", "maximumPageSize": 50, "reverseOrder": true }

If a decision task is available from the task list specified, Amazon SWF returns it immediately. If no decision task is available, Amazon SWF holds the connection open for up to 60 seconds, and returns a task as soon as it becomes available. If no task becomes available, Amazon SWF returns an empty response. An empty response is a Task structure in which the value of taskToken is an empty string. Make sure to program your decider to poll for another task if it receives an empty response.

If a decision task is available, Amazon SWF returns a response that contains the decision task as well as a paginated view of the workflow execution history.

In this example, the type of the most recent event indicates the workflow execution started and the input element contains the information needed to perform the first task.

{ "events": [ { "decisionTaskStartedEventAttributes": { "identity": "Decider01", "scheduledEventId": 2 }, "eventId": 3, "eventTimestamp": 1326593394.566, "eventType": "DecisionTaskStarted" }, { "decisionTaskScheduledEventAttributes": { "startToCloseTimeout": "600", "taskList": { "name": "specialTaskList" } }, "eventId": 2, "eventTimestamp": 1326592619.474, "eventType": "DecisionTaskScheduled" }, { "eventId": 1, "eventTimestamp": 1326592619.474, "eventType": "WorkflowExecutionStarted", "workflowExecutionStartedEventAttributes": { "childPolicy" : "TERMINATE", "executionStartToCloseTimeout" : "3600", "input" : "data-used-decider-for-first-task", "parentInitiatedEventId": 0, "tagList" : ["music purchase", "digital", "ricoh-the-dog"], "taskList": { "name": "specialTaskList" }, "taskStartToCloseTimeout": "600", "workflowType": { "name": "customerOrderWorkflow", "version": "1.0" } } } ], ... }

After receiving the workflow execution history, the decider interprets history and makes decisions based on its coordination logic.

Because the number of workflow history events for a single workflow execution might be large, the result returned might be split up across a number of pages. To retrieve subsequent pages, make additional calls to PollForDecisionTask using the nextPageToken returned by the initial call. Note that you do not call GetWorkflowExecutionHistory with this nextPageToken. Instead, call PollForDecisionTask again.

Applying the Coordination Logic

After the decider receives a decision task, program it to interpret the workflow execution history to determine what has happened so far. Based on this, it should generate a list of decisions.

In the e-commerce example, we are concerned only with the last event in the workflow history, so we define the following logic.

IF lastEvent = "StartWorkflowInstance" addToDecisions ScheduleVerifyOrderActivity ELSIF lastEvent = "CompleteVerifyOrderActivity" addToDecisions ScheduleChargeCreditCardActivity ELSIF lastEvent = "CompleteChargeCreditCardActivity" addToDecisions ScheduleCompleteShipOrderActivity ELSIF lastEvent = "CompleteShipOrderActivity" addToDecisions ScheduleRecordOrderCompletion ELSIF lastEvent = "CompleteRecordOrderCompletion" addToDecisions CloseWorkflow ENDIF

If the lastEvent is CompleteVerifyOrderActivity, you would add the ScheduleChargeCreditCardActivity activity to the list of decisions.

After the decider determines the decision(s) to make, it can respond to Amazon SWF with appropriate decisions.

Responding with Decisions

After interpreting the workflow history and generating a list of decisions, the decider is ready to respond back to Amazon SWF with those decisions.

Program your decider to extract the data that it needs from the workflow execution history, then create decisions that specify the next appropriate actions for the workflow. The decider transmits these decision back to Amazon SWF using the RespondDecisionTaskCompleted action. See the Amazon Simple Workflow Service API Reference for a list of the available decision types.

In the e-commerce example, when the decider responds with the set of decisions that it generated, it also includes the credit card input from the workflow execution history. The activity worker then has the information it needs to perform the activity task.

When all activities in the workflow execution are complete, the decider closes the workflow execution.

Copy RespondDecisionTaskCompleted { "taskToken" : "12342e17-80f6-FAKE-TASK-TOKEN32f0223", "decisions" : [ { "decisionType" :"ScheduleActivityTask", "scheduleActivityTaskDecisionAttributes" : { "control" :"OPTIONAL_DATA_FOR_DECIDER", "activityType" : { "name" :"ScheduleChargeCreditCardActivity", "version" :"1.1" }, "activityId" :"3e2e6e55-e7c4-beef-feed-aa815722b7be", "scheduleToCloseTimeout" :"360", "taskList" : { "name" :"CC_TASKS" }, "scheduleToStartTimeout" :"60", "startToCloseTimeout" :"300", "heartbeatTimeout" :"60", "input" : "4321-0001-0002-1234: 0212 : 234" } } ] }

Closing a Workflow Execution

When the decider determines that the business process is complete, that is, that there are no more activities to perform, the decider generates a decision to close the workflow execution.

To close a workflow execution, program your decider to interpret the events in the workflow history to determine what has happened in the execution so far and see if the workflow execution should be closed.

If the workflow has completed successfully, then close the workflow execution by calling RespondDecisionTaskCompleted with the CompleteWorkflowExecution decision. Alternatively, you can fail an erroneous execution using the FailWorkflowExecution decision.

In the e-commerce example, the decider reviews the history and based on the coordination logic adds a decision to close the workflow execution to its list of decisions, and initiates a RespondDecisionTaskCompleted action with a close workflow decision.


There are some cases where closing a workflow execution fails. For example, if a signal is received while the decider is closing the workflow execution, the close decision will fail. To handle this possibility, ensure that the decider continues polling for decision tasks. Also, ensure that the decider that receives the next decision task responds to the event—in this case, a signal—that prevented the execution from closing.

You might also support cancellation of workflow executions. This could be especially useful for long running workflows. To support cancellation, your decider should handle the WorkflowExecutionCancelRequested event in the history. This event indicates that cancellation of the execution has been requested. Your decider should perform appropriate clean-up actions, such as canceling ongoing activity tasks, and closing the workflow calling the RespondDecisionTaskCompleted action with the CancelWorkflowExecution decision.

The following example calls RespondDecisionTaskCompleted to specify that the current workflow execution is canceled.

Copy RespondDecisionTaskCompleted { "taskToken" : "12342e17-80f6-FAKE-TASK-TOKEN32f0223", "decisions" : [ { "decisionType":"CancelWorkflowExecution", "CancelWorkflowExecutionAttributes":{ "Details": "Customer canceled order" } } ] }

Amazon SWF checks to ensure that the decision to close or cancel the workflow execution is the last decision sent by the decider. That is, it isn't valid to have a set of decisions in which there are decisions after the one that closes the workflow.

Launching Deciders

After completing decider development, you are ready to launch one or more deciders.

To launch deciders, package your coordination logic into an executable that you can use on your decider platform. For example, you might package your decider code as a Java executable that you can run on both Linux and Windows computers.

Once launched, your deciders should start polling Amazon SWF for tasks. Until you start workflow executions and Amazon SWF schedules decision tasks, these polls will time out and get empty responses. An empty response is a Task structure in which the value of taskToken is an empty string. Your deciders should simply continue to poll.

Amazon SWF ensures that only one decision task can be active for a workflow execution at any time. This prevents issues such as conflicting decisions. Additionally, Amazon SWF ensures that a single decision task is assigned to a single decider, regardless of the number of deciders that are running.

If something occurs that generates a decision task while a decider is processing another decision task, Amazon SWF queues the new task until the current task completes. After the current task completes, Amazon SWF makes the new decision task available. Also, decision tasks are batched in the sense that, if multiple activities complete while a decider is processing a decision task, Amazon SWF will create only a single new decision task to account for the multiple task completions. However, each task completion will receive an individual event in the workflow execution history.

Because polls are outbound requests, deciders can run on any network that has access to the Amazon SWF endpoint.

In order for workflow executions to progress, one or more deciders must be running. You can launch as many deciders as you like. Amazon SWF supports multiple deciders polling on the same task list.