AWS Step Functions Use Cases

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As you probably already know, Step Functions is a serverless Workflow Service provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS). There’s a lot to discuss about this service, and you’ll find plenty of vital information in our AWS Step Functions: The Ultimate Guide as well as in our series of articles that’ll dive deep into various aspects regarding this AWS service.

Moreover, if you’re eager to learn more about cloud computing, make sure to register for AWS re:Invent virtual event where you’ll hear a lot from AWS experts and cloud leaders about what’s new and what’s coming up next from AWS or feel free to browse our extensive Knowledge Base.

We’ll dive deep into Step Functions’ benefits and shortcomings in today’s article, but our primary focus goes to the best Step Functions use cases.

Quick Reminder About Step Functions

They’re quite useful for orchestrating multiple small tasks that’ll help you build complex workflows. Step Functions are completely serverless, and this means that users won’t have to worry about scaling up or down the resources when the incoming requests decrease or increase because Step functions will take care of it all.

Now, let’s discuss the benefits of using Step Functions, so you’ll later better understand Step Functions use cases.

Benefits of Using Step Functions

Auto Scaling is Possible

It Has a Modular Code

Importance of Maintainability & Testability

It Allows Development in Various Languages

Code Reusability is Possible

Step Functions are Resilient

Challenges of Using Step Functions

Self-Service User Interface Isn’t Great

Pricing Based Per Transition

Read more about about how to cut cost on Step Functions.

Basic Condition Checks

Now that you’re aware of both upsides and downsides of using Step Functions, we’ll turn to actual Step Function use cases.

AWS Step Function Use Cases

These are some workload examples that can bring quite useful results from utilizing Step Functions:

AI and ETL Jobs

The same goes for Deep Learning and Machine Learning tasks. These tasks usually involve processing pipelines in which you have to follow a series of steps before reaching a classification or prediction result.

Step Functions are excellent for solving these needs since they’re connected to other services like AWS Batch or AWS Lambda, and they’ll run custom logic upon the data. Moreover, Step Functions will ultimately use DynamoDB and S3 to retrieve and store all information along with workflow processing.

Orchestrating Microservices

Rules and complex logic apply to the workflow so they would account for exceptional cases. The “retry mechanism” that’s embedded into Step Functions, including integration services like AWS Lambda, makes it much easier to implement composition strategies like fault-tolerant microservices.

Parallel Processing (Fan-Out)

Datapoint List Handling

Step Functions are excellent in other use case examples as well, and here are the most important ones:

Very Straightforward Integration with Manual Tasks

Batch Job Processing

Coordinating Container Tasks in Serverless Workflow

Real-Life Step Function Use Cases

Waiting for payment to succeed → Generating Invoice → Sending email → Sending SMS → Deducting from Inventory → Starting Shipment → Creating Tracking Info.

Async Operations: You can also check for the completion of async operations by polling. If your logic is third-party service operation-dependent, and you don’t know how much time it requires, don’t wait for the process to complete synchronously. What you should do instead is trigger a Step Function upon calling the third-party service. The Step Function can then check the operation status at regular intervals until the successful completion of this operation. Step Function will notify the client when the process is completed successfully.

Larger companies with multiple teams that work on each step can find it more difficult. If that’s your case, you should define several Lambda functions for each step and combine them through a single Step function. Every Lambda function can easily be both developed and maintained by different teams or developers.

Wrapping Up

Our final verdict regarding Step Function actual use cases is that it can come in quite handy by successfully managing business workflows. The only thing developers have to worry about is the core logic, and Step Functions will take care of things like scaling, hosting, configurations, etc. Step Functions as a service is still growing, and it may evolve into a perfect solution for any business workflow management in the upcoming years.

Don’t forget that you can also monitor your Step Functions (both standard and express workflows) with Dashbird and start receiving Well-Architected insights on how to optimize them even better for cost efficiency and operational excellence. You can try it out for free by signing up here. 2-minute easy setup, no credit card required, no code changes and you can cancel any time. (Psst, we also have an early Black Friday deal: you can use code BLACK2020 an checkout to get your first 2 months for free).

CEO and Founder of 12+ years of experience as a software developer and 5+ years of building Serverless applications.