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Simple Workflow Service made simple

Amazon is developing tools through the Cloud that will make life a whole lot easier on small businesses.  Amazon Web Services’ Simple Workflow Service (SWF) is a portal for developers to build and run cloud-based or on-premise business automation applications.  Check out why they think this endeavor will be beneficial for businesses to take advantage of.

We want to make it easier for you to build distributed, fault-tolerant, cloud-based applications! In our own work with systems of this type, we have learned quite a bit. For example:

  1. The applications often incorporate a workflow — A series of steps that must take place in a predefined order, with opportunities to adjust the workflow as needed by making decisions and by handling special cases in a structured fashion.
  2. The workflow often represents a business process – Think about all of the steps involved in processing an order on your favorite e-commerce site. Charging your credit card, updating your order history, arranging for the items to be shipped, shipping the items, tracking the shipment, replenishing inventory, handling returns, and much more.
  3. Processes can be complex – Years ago, I was told that a single Amazon.com order needed to make its way through at least 40 different states or steps before it was considered complete. I am sure that the process has become even more complex over time.
  4. Flexibility is key – Earlier attempts to specify and codify a workflow in declarative form have proven to be rigid and inflexible. At some point, procedural code becomes a necessity.
  5. Ease of use is important – It should be possible to design and implement these applications without spending a lot of time acquiring specialized skills.

As for pricing, this service will be pay as you go.  Like all of the services in the AWS Cloud, Amazon Simple Workflow is priced on an economical, pay-as-you-go basis. First, all AWS customers can get started for free. You can initiate execution of 1,000 Workflows and 10,000 tasks per month and you can keep them running for a total of 30,000 workflow-days (one workflow active for one day is equal to one workflow-day).

Beyond that, there are three pricing dimensions:

  • Executions – You pay $0.0001 for every Workflow execution and an additional $0.000005 per day if they remain active for more than 24 hours.
  • Tasks, Signals, and Markers – You pay $0.000025 for every task execution, timer, signal, and marker.
  • Bandwidth – You pay $0.10 for the first Gigabyte of data transferred in. There is no charge for the first Gigabyte of data transferred out, and the usual tiered AWS charges after that.

Check out the rest of Amazon’s announcement over on their blog, and don’t forget about the upcoming Columbus Cloud Conference on April 3, 2012.

-Matt