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


Signals enable you to inject information into a running workflow execution. In some scenarios, you might want to add information to a running workflow execution to let it know that something has changed or to inform it of an external event. Any process can send a signal to an open workflow execution. For example, one workflow execution might signal another.

To use signals, define the signal name and data to be passed to the signal—if any. Then, program the decider to recognize the signal event (WorkflowExecutionSignaled) in the history and process it appropriately. When a process wants to signal a workflow execution, it makes a call to Amazon SWF (using the SignalWorkflowExecution action or, in the case of a decider, using the SignalExternalWorkflowExecution decision) that specifies the identifier for the target workflow execution, the signal name, and the signal data. Amazon SWF then receives the signal, records it in the history of the target workflow execution, and schedules a decision task for it. When the decider receives the decision task, it also receives the signal inside the workflow execution history. The decider can then take appropriate actions based on the signal and its data.

Some applications for signals include the following:

  • Pausing workflow executions from progressing until a signal is received (e.g., waiting for an inventory shipment).

  • Providing information to a workflow execution that might affect the logic of how deciders make decisions. This is useful for workflows affected by external events (e.g., trying to finish the sale of a stock after the market closes).

  • Updating a workflow execution when you anticipate that changes might occur (e.g., changing order quantities after an order is placed and before it ships).

For cases in which a workflow should be canceled—for example, the order itself was canceled by the customer—the RequestCancelWorkflowExecution action should be used rather than sending a signal to the workflow.