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

What is Amazon Simple Workflow Service?

The Amazon Simple Workflow Service (Amazon SWF) makes it easy to build applications that coordinate work across distributed components. In Amazon SWF, a task represents a logical unit of work that is performed by a component of your application. Coordinating tasks across the application involves managing intertask dependencies, scheduling, and concurrency in accordance with the logical flow of the application. Amazon SWF gives you full control over implementing tasks and coordinating them without worrying about underlying complexities such as tracking their progress and maintaining their state.

When using Amazon SWF, you implement workers to perform tasks. These workers can run either on cloud infrastructure, such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), or on your own premises. You can create tasks that are long-running, or that may fail, time out, or require restarts—or that may complete with varying throughput and latency. Amazon SWF stores tasks and assigns them to workers when they are ready, tracks their progress, and maintains their state, including details on their completion. To coordinate tasks, you write a program that gets the latest state of each task from Amazon SWF and uses it to initiate subsequent tasks. Amazon SWF maintains an application's execution state durably so that the application is resilient to failures in individual components. With Amazon SWF, you can implement, deploy, scale, and modify these application components independently.

Amazon SWF offers capabilities to support a variety of application requirements. It is suitable for a range of use cases that require coordination of tasks, including media processing, web application back-ends, business process workflows, and analytics pipelines.

Development Options

You have a number of options for implementing your workflow solutions with the Amazon Simple Workflow Service.


Amazon SWF is supported by the AWS SDKs for Java, .NET, Node.js, PHP, PHP version 2, Python and Ruby, providing a convenient way to use the Amazon SWF HTTP API in the programming language of your choice.

You can develop deciders, activities, or workflow starters using the API exposed by these libraries. Additionally, you can access visibility operations through these libraries so you can develop your own Amazon SWF monitoring and reporting tools.

To download any of the AWS SDKs, go to

For detailed information about the Amazon SWF methods in each SDK, refer to the language-specific reference documentation for the SDK you are using.

Here is a list of the available AWS SDK documentation.

AWS Flow Framework

The AWS Flow Framework is an enhanced SDK for writing distributed, asynchronous programs that can run as workflows on Amazon SWF. It is available for the Java and Ruby programming languages, and it provides classes that simplify writing complex distributed programs.

With the AWS Flow Framework, you use preconfigured types to map the definition of your workflow directly to methods in your program.

The AWS Flow Framework supports standard object-oriented concepts, such as exception-based error handling, which makes it easier to implement complex workflows. Programs written with the AWS Flow Framework can be created, executed, and debugged entirely within your preferred editor or IDE. For more information, see the AWS Flow Framework website.

Here are links to the AWS Flow Framework documentation:

AWS Flow Framework Sample Code

In addition to the code snippets that appear in the AWS Flow Framework documentation, you can obtain full, downloadable code samples at the following locations:

HTTP Service API

Amazon SWF provides service operations that are accessible through HTTP requests. You can use these operations to communicate directly with Amazon SWF, and you can use them to develop your own libraries in any language that can communicate with Amazon SWF through HTTP.

You can develop deciders, activity workers, or workflow starters by using the service API. You can also access visibility operations through the API to develop your own monitoring and reporting tools.

For information about how to use the API, see Making HTTP Requests to Amazon SWF. For detailed information about API operations, go to the Amazon Simple Workflow Service API Reference.

Development Environments

You will need to set up a development environment appropriate to the programming language that you will use. For example, if you intend to develop for Amazon SWF with Java, you will need to install a Java development environment, such as the AWS SDK for Java, on each of your development workstations. If you use the Eclipse IDE for Java development, you might consider also installing the AWS Toolkit for Eclipse. The Toolkit is an Eclipse plug-in that adds features that are helpful for AWS development.

If your programming language requires a run-time environment, you need to set up that environment on each computer on which these processes run.

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