Microservices on AWS
AWS Whitepaper

Asynchronous Communication and Lightweight Messaging

In traditional, monolithic applications communication is rather simple: parts of the application can communicate with other parts using method calls or an internal event distribution mechanism. If the same application is implemented using decoupled microservices, the communication between different parts of the application has to be implemented using network communication.

REST-based Communication

The HTTP/S protocol is the most popular way to implement synchronous communication between microservices. In most cases, RESTful APIs use HTTP as a transport layer. The REST architectural style relies on stateless communication, uniform interfaces, and standard methods.

With API Gateway you can create an API that acts as a “front door” for applications to access data, business logic, or functionality from your backend services, such as workloads running on Amazon EC2 and Amazon ECS, code running on Lambda, or any web application. An API object defined with the API Gateway service is a group of resources and methods. A resource is a typed object within the domain of an API and may have associated a data model or relationships to other resources. Each resource can be configured to respond to one or more methods, that is, standard HTTP verbs such as GET, POST, or PUT. REST APIs can be deployed to different stages, versioned as well as cloned to new versions.

API Gateway handles all the tasks involved in accepting and processing up to hundreds of thousands of concurrent API calls, including traffic management, authorization and access control, monitoring, and API version management.

Asynchronous Messaging

An additional pattern to implement communication between microservices is message passing. Services communicate by exchanging messages via a queue. One major benefit of this communication style is that it’s not necessary to have a service discovery. Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) and Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) make it simple to implement this pattern.


Amazon SQS is a fast, reliable, scalable, fully managed queuing service that makes it simple and cost effective to decouple the components of a cloud application.

Amazon SNS is fully managed notification service that provides developers with a highly scalable, flexible, and cost-effective capability to publish messages from an application and immediately deliver them to subscribers or other applications.

Both services work closely together. Amazon SNS allows applications to send messages to multiple subscribers through a push mechanism. By using Amazon SNS and Amazon SQS together, one message can be delivered to multiple consumers. The following figure demonstrates the integration of Amazon SNS and Amazon SQS.

When you subscribe an SQS queue to an SNS topic, you can publish a message to the topic and Amazon SNS sends a message to the subscribed SQS queue. The message contains subject and message published to the topic along with metadata information in JSON format.

Orchestra and State Management

The distributed character of microservices makes it challenging to orchestrate workflows with multiple microservices involved. Developers might be tempted to add orchestration code into their services directly. This should be avoided as it introduces tighter coupling and makes it harder to quickly replace individual services.


AWS Step Functions makes it easy to coordinate the components of distributed applications and microservices using visual workflows.

You can use Step Functions to build applications from individual components that each perform a discrete function. Step Functions provides a state machine that hides the complexities of service orchestration, such as error handling and serialization/parallelization. This lets you scale and change applications quickly while avoiding additional coordination code inside services.

Step Functions is a reliable way to coordinate components and step through the functions of your application. Step Functions provides a graphical console to arrange and visualize the components of your application as a series of steps. This makes it simple to build and run distributed services. Step Functions automatically triggers and tracks each step and retries when there are errors, so your application executes in order and as expected. Step Functions logs the state of each step so when something goes wrong, you can diagnose and debug problems quickly. You can change and add steps without even writing code to evolve your application and innovate faster.

Step Functions is part of the AWS Serverless Platform and supports orchestration of Lambda functions as well as applications based on compute resources such as Amazon EC2 and Amazon ECS. The following figure illustrates that invocations of Lambda functions are pushed directly from Step Functions to AWS Lambda, whereas workers on Amazon EC2 or Amazon ECS continuously poll for invocations.

Step Functions manages the operations and underlying infrastructure for you to help ensure your application is available at any scale.

To build workflows Step Functions uses the Amazon States Language.

Workflows can contain sequential or parallel steps as well as branching steps.

The following figure shows an example workflow for a microservices architecture combining sequential and parallel steps. Invoking such a workflow can be done either through the Step Functions API or with API Gateway.