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Step Functions

Links: 102 AWS DVA Index

Keywords: state machines, multiple lambdas

Step Functions

  • It allows us to model our workflow as state machines.
  • Use cases:
    • Order fulfilment, Data processing
    • Web applications, Any workflow
  • Written in JSON
  • Visualisation of the workflow and the execution of the workflow, as well as history (useful for debugging)
  • Start workflow with SDK call, API Gateway, Event Bridge (CloudWatch Event)

Task State

  • Do some work in your state machine
  • Invoke one AWS service
    • Can invoke a Lambda function
      • attachments/Pasted image 20220530123640.jpg
    • Run an AWS Batch job
    • Run an ECS task and wait for it to complete
    • Insert an item from DynamoDB
    • Publish message to SNS, SQS
    • Launch another Step Function workflow
    • attachments/Pasted image 20220530123451.jpg
  • Run an one Activity
    • EC2, Amazon ECS, on-premises
    • Activities poll the Step functions for work
    • Activities send results back to Step Functions
    • attachments/Pasted image 20220530123526.jpg

Information Flow

  • A Step Functions execution receives a JSON text as input and passes that input to the first state in the workflow.
  • Individual states receive JSON as input and usually pass JSON as output to the next state.
    • attachments/Pasted image 20220610152407.jpg
  • In the Amazon States Language, these fields filter and control the flow of JSON from state to state:

    • InputPath
    • OutputPath
    • ResultPath
    • Parameters
  • Both the InputPath and Parameters fields provide a way to manipulate JSON as it moves through your workflow.

    • InputPath can limit the input that is passed by filtering the JSON notation by using a path.
    • The Parameters field enables you to pass a collection of key-value pairs, where the values are either static values that you define in your state machine definition, or that are selected from the input using a path.
    • AWS Step Functions applies the InputPath field first, and then the Parameters field. You can first filter your raw input to a selection you want using InputPath, and then apply Parameters to manipulate that input further, or add new values.
  • The output of a state can be
    • A copy of its input,
    • The result it produces (for example, the output from a Task state’s Lambda function),
    • Or a combination of its input and result.
  • Use ResultPath to control which combination of these is passed to the state output.
  • OutputPath enables you to select a portion of the state output to pass to the next state.
    • This enables you to filter out unwanted information, and pass only the portion of JSON that you care about.
  • Out of these field filters, the ResultPath field filter is the only one that can control input values and its previous results to be passed to the state output.


  • Choice State: Test for a condition to send to a branch (or default branch)
  • Fail or Succeed State: Stop execution with failure or success
  • Pass State: Simply pass its input to its output or inject some fixed data, without performing work.
  • Wait State: Provide a delay for a certain amount of time or until a specified time/date.
  • Map State: Dynamically iterate steps
  • Parallel State: Begin parallel branches of execution.
You want to orchestrate multiple Lambda functions and wait for the result of all of them before making a final decision. What do you recommend?

Step Functions Parallel States and then one final Task State

Error Handling

  • Whole power of step functions
  • All the errors should be handled in the state machine outside of the application code.
  • Any state can encounter runtime errors for various reasons:
    • State machine definition issues (for example, no matching rule in a Choice state)
    • Task failures (for example, an exception in a Lambda function)
    • Transient issues (for example, network partition events)
  • Use Retry (to retry failed state) and Catch (transition to failure path) in the State Machine to handle the errors instead of inside the Application Code.
  • Predefined error codes:
    • States.ALL : matches any error name
    • States.Timeout: Task ran longer than TimeoutSeconds or no heartbeat received
    • States.TaskFailed: execution failure
    • States.Permissions: insufficient privileges to execute code
  • The state may report is own errors


  • Evaluated from top to bottom
    • attachments/Pasted image 20220530125551.jpg
  • ErrorEquals: match a specific kind of error
  • IntervalSeconds: initial delay before retrying
  • BackoffRate: multiple the delay after each retry
  • MaxAttempts: default to 3, set to 0 for never retried
  • When max attempts are reached, the Catch kicks in
  • In the above example we see that changing the error handling logic is very easy.
    • If all these steps would have been inside the lambda function it might have timed out.


  • Evaluated from top to bottom
    • attachments/Pasted image 20220530125903.jpg
  • ErrorEquals: match a specific kind of error
  • Next: State to send to
  • ResultPath: A path that determines what input is sent to the state specified in the Next field.
    • ResultPath is how you pass errors from the input to the output
    • attachments/Pasted image 20220530130227.jpg

Standard vs Express Workflow

  • Express workflows are cheaper, run for shorter duration(5 minutes) and don't have an execution history.
    • attachments/Pasted image 20220530141934.jpg

Last updated: 2022-06-10