Amazon SWF

Amazon Simple Workflow Service (Amazon SWF) is a web service that makes it easy to coordinate work across distributed application components. Amazon SWF enables applications for a range of use cases, including media processing, web application backends, business process workflows, and analytics pipelines, to be designed as a coordination of tasks.

Tasks represent invocations of various processing steps in an application which can be performed by executable code, web service calls, human actions, and scripts. The maximum workflow can be 1 year and the value is always measured in seconds.


SWF has three types of actors:

  • Workflow Starters: An application that can initiate (start) a workflow. Could be your e-commerce website when placing an order or a mobile alp searching for bus times.
  • Deciders: Controls the flow of activity tasks in a workflow execution. If something has finished in a workflow (or fails) a Decider decides what to do next.
  • Activity Workers: Carries out the activity tasks. Could be a human, an EC2 instance, etc. Workers interact with Amazon SWF to get tasks, process tasks, and return the results.

The workers and the deciders can run on cloud infrastructure, such as Amazon EC2, or on machines behind firewalls. Amazon SWF brokers the interactions between workers and the decider. It allows the decider to get consistent views into the progress of tasks and to initiate new tasks in an ongoing manner.

At the same time, Amazon SWF stores tasks, assigns them to workers when they are ready, and monitors their progress. It ensures that a task is assigned only once and is never duplicated (this is the main difference between SWF and SQS). Since Amazon SWF maintains the application's state durably, workers and deciders don't have to keep track of execution state. They can run independently, and scale quickly.

SWF Domains

Your workflow and activity types and the workflow execution itself are all scoped to a domain. Domains isolate a set of types, executions, and task lists from others within the same account.

You can register a domain by using the AWS Management Console or by using the RegistrerDomain action in the Amazon SWF API.


  • Amazon SWF presents a task-oriented API, whereas Amazon SQS offers a message-oriented API.
  • Amazon SWF ensures that a task is assigned only once and is never duplicated. With Amazon SQS, you need to handle duplicated messages and may also need to ensure that5 a message is processed only once.
  • Amazon SWF keeps track of all the tasks and events in an application. With Amazon SQS, you need to implement your own application-level tracking, especially if your application uses multiple queues.