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AWS Intros Visual Workflows for Distributed Apps

A new tool introduced by Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS) today at its re:Invent 2016 conference provides visual workflows for building distributed applications, with no coding required.

AWS Step Functions lets developers connect different Web services and microservices in order to create complex, distributed applications for use cases such as document and data processing, DevOps, e-commerce and Web apps, such as setting up a processing pipelines for photo uploads, for one example.

The company said it lets developers use familiar tools and libraries to build such apps that are robust and can scale as needed in a cost-effective manner.

"You can coordinate the components of your application as series of steps in a visual workflow," said AWS spokesperson Jeff Barr in a blog post today. "You create state machines in the Step Functions Console to specify and execute the steps of your application at scale.

"Each state machine defines a set of states and the transitions between them. States can be activated sequentially or in parallel; Step Functions will make sure that all parallel states run to completion before moving forward. States perform work, make decisions, and control progress through the state machine."

Product documentation states that the tool automatically starts and tracks each step and retries those that fail -- while providing log information to help troubleshoot errors -- so applications execute in the expected order.

In addition to the visual console, pre-built blueprints for commonly used workflows help coordinate app components into those aforementioned parallel or sequential steps.

"AWS Step Functions makes it easy to change workflows and edit the sequence of steps without revising the entire application," the product's site states. "You can re-use components and steps without even changing their code to experiment and innovate faster. Your workflow can support thousands of individual components and steps, so you can freely build increasingly complex applications."

A FAQ explains why AWS Step Functions should be used instead of the existing Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS).

"You should consider AWS Step Functions when you need to coordinate service components in the development of highly scalable and auditable applications," the FAQ advises. "You should consider using [SQS) when you need a reliable, highly scalable, hosted queue for sending, storing, and receiving messages between services. Step Functions keeps track of all tasks and events in an application. Amazon SQS requires you to implement your own application-level tracking, especially if your application uses multiple queues."

The service comes with a free tier that allows 4,000 state transitions each month. Full pricing details are available here. It's available now in the US East (Northern Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland) and Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Regions.

More from re:Invent 2016

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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