AWS launches cloud-workflow automation service

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has launched a new cloud-based service the helps application developers to manage the workflow of processing tasks across distributed systems.

The company says that Amazon Simple Workflow Service (SWF) makes it easier to build applications that require tasks based on separate systems to be executed in a particular order. This is increasingly important as organisations build applications on distributed systems in order to achieve scalability and massively parallel processing.

According to Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, managing workflow in distributed applications today forces developers "to write complicated infrastructure that typically involves message queues and databases along with complex logic to synchronize them.

"All this ‘plumbing’ is extraneous to business logic and makes the application code unnecessarily complicated and hard to maintain," Vogels wrote on his blog.

SWF comprises a ‘decider’, which co-ordinates the various ‘tasks’, logical units of computing work, by assigning them to ‘workers’, i.e. functional components of the underlying applications.

Customers will be able to use the service for free for up to 1,000 workflows and 10,000 tasks per month, AW. Those workflows can be kept running for a total of 30,000 workflow-days (where one workflow active for one day is equal to one workflow-day), Amazon said. After that, SWF will cost $0.0001 for every Workflow execution, and an additional $0.000005 per day if they remain active for more than 24 hours, as well as AWS usual prices for data transfer.

Already using the service include NASA’s Jet Prepulsion Laboratory, which uses SWF to coordinate the processing of very large images of the Martian surface across multiple machines working in parallel, and drug developer Sage Bionetworks, which uses the service to support its online drug analysis platform Synapse.

"By using Amazon SWF, Synapse is able to use a heterogeneity of computing resources including our servers hosted in-house, shared infrastructure hosted at our partners’ sites, and public resources, such as Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)," Sage Bionetworks’ technology director Michael Kellen is quoted as saying. "This gives us immense flexibility is where we run computational jobs which enables Synapse to leverage the right combination of infrastructure for every project.”

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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