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Amazon Web Services Adds Workflow Engine

Looking to simplify the development and management of business critical applications distributed across its public cloud and customers' private data centers, Amazon Web Services on Wednesday launched a workflow service that coordinates all of the processing procedures within an app.

Amazon said its new Simple Workflow Service (SWF) is aimed at reducing the time-consuming process of building applications such as those that automate business processes for, say, running financial systems, conducting data analytics or managing cloud infrastructure services. SWF coordinates the tasks and manages their execution dependencies, scheduling and concurrency in conjunction with the application logic associated with that task, according to Amazon.

Furthermore, Amazon SWF "reliably coordinates all of the processing steps within an application," the company said.

"Amazon SWF is an orchestration service for building scalable distributed applications," said Amazon CTO Werner Vogels in a blog post. "Often an application consists of several different tasks to be performed in particular sequence driven by a set of dynamic conditions. Amazon SWF makes it very easy for developers to architect and implement these tasks, run them in the cloud or on premise and coordinate their flow."

Vogels added that an increasing number of apps have started to rely on asynchronous and distributed processing and scalability is a key requirement. "By designing autonomous distributed components, developers get the flexibility to deploy and scale out parts of the application independently as load increases," he noted.

Among those that test SWF prior to its release were NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), which is using it to incorporate distributed resources both internally and externally to allow apps to scale dynamically; Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit biotechnology research organization that is using SWF as part if its computation platform to process molecular and clinical data sets; and cloud management vendor RightScale, which is using SWF to build infrastructure management capabilities more rapidly.

"Using Amazon SWF, we are able to reduce the time to market for our higher level infrastructure automation features," said RightScale CTO Thorsten von Eicken in a statement. "We are able to focus on our value-add without having to worry about the challenges that are associated with implementing a distributed workflow engine. In the end we are able to ship new features faster and don't have to concern ourselves with maintaining that engine."

Amazon published a detailed rundown of how SWF works and a description that lets developers start building SWFs. Below is a diagram encapsulating SWF:

Amazon SWF
[Click on image for larger view.]
Source: Amazon

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on February 22, 2012


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