Amazon automates business processes with new cloud service

Amazon hopes to help remove the complexities of automating processes

Amazon Web Services has launched Simple Workflow Service (SWF), which will allow enterprises to automate business processes across both cloud-based and on-premise applications, the company said on Tuesday.

With SWF, developers get full control over implementing processing steps and coordinating the tasks that drive them, without worrying about underlying complexities such as tracking their progress and keeping their state, Amazon said.

SWF is still in a beta version, but has already been used to build applications for image processing, video encoding, infrastructure provisioning, and business process management. Early users of the service include Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Amazon itself.

All workflows include a number of different tasks that have to be coordinated. For example, an image processing workflow includes steps such as accepting the uploaded file; storing it, classifying it; validating format and file size, and so on, according to an Amazon blog post.

The underlying architecture consists of so-called workers and deciders. Each task is an action that in SWF is implemented using a worker, and a decider is then used to coordinate the tasks. SWF brokers the interactions between the two, according to Amazon.

Any programming language can be used to write the workers and deciders, as long as they can communicate with Amazon SWF using web service APIs (application programming interfaces). They can run in a cloud, on premise or a mixture of both.

To simplify the use of SWF, Amazon has also created the AWS Flow Framework, which is a part of the AWS SDK for Java. The AWS Management Console includes full support for SWF, as well.

Enterprises can start testing SWF for free, and initiate up to 1,000 workflows and 10,000 tasks per month and keep them running for a total of 30,000 workflow-days.

Amazon SWF is currently only available in the US East region, but Amazon expects to make the service available in additional regions shortly, according to an SWF FAQ.

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