AWS Step Functions
Developer Guide

Creating an Activity State Machine

You can coordinate task code in your state machine. This tutorial introduces you to creating an activity-based state machine using Java and AWS Step Functions.

To complete this tutorial you'll need the following:

  • The SDK for Java. The example activity in this tutorial is a Java application that uses the AWS SDK for Java to communicate with AWS.

  • AWS credentials in the environment or in the standard AWS configuration file. For more information, see Set up Your AWS credentials in the AWS SDK for Java Developer Guide.

Step 1: Creating a New Activity

You must make Step Functions aware of the activity whose worker (a program) you want to create. Step Functions responds with an ARN that establishes an identity for the activity. Use this identity to coordinate the information passed between your state machine and worker.


Ensure that your activity task is under the same AWS account as your state machine.

To create the new activity task

  1. In the Step Functions console, choose Activities in the left navigation panel.

  2. Choose Create activity.

  3. Type an Activity Name. For example get-greeting, and choose Create Activity.

  4. When your activity task is created, note its Amazon Resource Name (ARN), for example:


Step 2: Creating a State Machine

Create a state machine that will determine when your activity is invoked and when your worker should perform its primary work, collect its results, and return them.

To create the state machine

  1. In the Step Functions console, choose State machines in the left navigation panel.

  2. On the State machines page, choose Create state machine, select Author from scratch, and enter a name under Details (for example ActivityStateMachine).


    State machine, execution, and activity names must be 1–80 characters in length, must be unique for your account and region, and must not contain any of the following:

    • Whitespace

    • Wildcard characters (? *)

    • Bracket characters (< > { } [ ])

    • Special characters (: ; , \ | ^ ~ $ # % & ` ")

    • Control characters (\\u0000 - \\u001f or \\u007f - \\u009f).

    Step Functions allows you to create state machine, execution, and activity names that contain non-ASCII characters. These non-ASCII names don't work with Amazon CloudWatch. To ensure that you can track CloudWatch metrics, choose a name that uses only ASCII characters.

  3. Create or enter an IAM role.

    • To create a new IAM role for Step Functions, choose Create a role for me, and then choose I acknowledge that Step Functions will create an IAM role which allows access to my Lambda functions.

    • If you have previously created an IAM role for Step Functions, choose I will provide an IAM role ARN and enter your existing IAM role ARN.


    If you delete the IAM role that Step Functions creates, Step Functions can't recreate it later. Similarly, if you modify the role (for example, by removing Step Functions from the principals in the IAM policy), Step Functions can't restore its original settings later.

  4. Under State machine definition, enter the following code, and include the ARN of the activity task that you created earlier in the Resource field, for example:

    { "Comment": "An example using a Task state.", "StartAt": "getGreeting", "Version": "1.0", "TimeoutSeconds": 300, "States": { "getGreeting": { "Type": "Task", "Resource": "arn:aws:states:us-east-1:123456789012:activity:get-greeting", "End": true } } }

    This is a description of your state machine using the Amazon States Language. It defines a single Task state named getGreeting. For more information, see State Machine Structure.

  5. Use the graph in the Visual Workflow pane to check that your Amazon States Language code describes your state machine correctly.

    If you don't see the graph, choose 
    in the Visual Workflow pane.

  6. Choose Create State Machine.

    The state machine is created and an acknowledgement page is displayed.

Step 3: Implementing a Worker

Create a worker, a program which is responsible for the following:

  • Polling Step Functions for activities using the GetActivityTask API action.

  • Performing the work of the activity using your code, (for example, the getGreeting() method in the code below).

  • Returning the results using the SendTaskSuccess, SendTaskFailure, and SendTaskHeartbeat API actions.


For a more complete example of an activity worker, see Example Activity Worker in Ruby. This example provides an implementation based on best practices, that can be used as a reference for your activity worker. The code implements a consumer-producer pattern with a configurable number of threads for pollers and activity workers.

To implement the worker

  1. Create a new file named

  2. Add the following code to it:

    import com.amazonaws.ClientConfiguration; import com.amazonaws.auth.EnvironmentVariableCredentialsProvider; import com.amazonaws.regions.Regions; import; import; import; import; import; import; import com.amazonaws.util.json.Jackson; import com.fasterxml.jackson.databind.JsonNode; import java.util.concurrent.TimeUnit; public class GreeterActivities { public String getGreeting(String who) throws Exception { return "{\"Hello\": \"" + who + "\"}"; } public static void main(final String[] args) throws Exception { GreeterActivities greeterActivities = new GreeterActivities(); ClientConfiguration clientConfiguration = new ClientConfiguration(); clientConfiguration.setSocketTimeout((int)TimeUnit.SECONDS.toMillis(70)); AWSStepFunctions client = AWSStepFunctionsClientBuilder.standard() .withRegion(Regions.US_EAST_1) .withCredentials(new EnvironmentVariableCredentialsProvider()) .withClientConfiguration(clientConfiguration) .build(); while (true) { GetActivityTaskResult getActivityTaskResult = client.getActivityTask( new GetActivityTaskRequest().withActivityArn(ACTIVITY_ARN)); if (getActivityTaskResult.getTaskToken() != null) { try { JsonNode json = Jackson.jsonNodeOf(getActivityTaskResult.getInput()); String greetingResult = greeterActivities.getGreeting(json.get("who").textValue()); client.sendTaskSuccess( new SendTaskSuccessRequest().withOutput( greetingResult).withTaskToken(getActivityTaskResult.getTaskToken())); } catch (Exception e) { client.sendTaskFailure(new SendTaskFailureRequest().withTaskToken( getActivityTaskResult.getTaskToken())); } } else { Thread.sleep(1000); } } } }


    The EnvironmentVariableCredentialsProvider class in this example assumes that the AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID (or AWS_ACCESS_KEY) and AWS_SECRET_KEY (or AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY) environment variables are set. For more information about providing the required credentials to the factory, see AWSCredentialsProvider in the AWS SDK for Java API Reference and Set up AWS Credentials and Region for Development in the AWS SDK for Java Developer Guide.

    To give Step Functions sufficient time to process the request, setSocketTimeout is set to 70 seconds.

  3. In the parameter list of the GetActivityTaskRequest().withActivityArn() constructor, replace the ACTIVITY_ARN value with the ARN of the activity task that you created earlier.

Step 4: Starting an Execution

When you start the execution of the state machine, your worker polls Step Functions for activities, performs its work (using the input that you provide), and returns its results.

To start the execution

  1. On the ActivityStateMachine page, choose Start execution.

    The New execution page is displayed.

  2. (Optional) To help identify your execution, you can specify an ID for it in the Enter an execution name box. If you don't enter an ID, Step Functions generates a unique ID automatically.


    Step Functions allows you to create state machine, execution, and activity names that contain non-ASCII characters. These non-ASCII names don't work with Amazon CloudWatch. To ensure that you can track CloudWatch metrics, choose a name that uses only ASCII characters.

  3. In the execution input area, replace the example data with the following:

    { "who" : "AWS Step Functions" }
  4. Choose Start Execution.

    A new execution of your state machine starts, and a new page showing your running execution is displayed.

  5. In the Execution Details section, choose Info to view the Execution Status and the Started and Closed timestamps.

  6. In the Execution Details section, expand the Output section to view the output of your workflow.

Step 5: Running and Stopping the Worker

To have the worker poll your state machine for activities, you must run the worker.


After the execution completes, you should stop your worker. If you don't stop the worker, it will continue to run and poll for activities. When the execution is stopped, your worker has no source of tasks and generates a SocketTimeoutException during each poll.

To run and stop the worker

  1. On the command line, navigate to the directory in which you created

  2. To use the AWS SDK, add the full path of the lib and third-party directories to the dependencies of your build file and to your Java CLASSPATH. For more information, see Downloading and Extracting the SDK in the AWS SDK for Java Developer Guide.

  3. Compile the file:

    $ javac
  4. Run the file:

    $ java GreeterActivities
  5. In the Step Functions console, navigate to the Execution Details page.

  6. When the execution completes, choose Output to see the results of your execution.

  7. Stop the worker.