Amazon Simple WorkFlow Service & BPM

  • February 29, 2012
  • Scott

Amazon’s new Simple WorkFlow service (SWF) is an interesting development for sure.  Several analysts weighed in on the development.

First up, Derek Miers of Forrester:

So Amazon is obviously looking for large scale and transaction throughput. Indeed, this is a significant addition to the business process management (BPM) landscape. If nothing else, the move should rattle the cages of the relatively high-cost model incumbent BPM players. I haven’t done a detailed cost analysis, but my perception is that this is potentially an order of magnitude (or two) cheaper than some of the existing cloud offerings out there. Vendors such as Cordys, Appian, and even the likes of IBM and will need to look at the implications of this carefully.

But, while the business model and pricing appear to be disruptive, as Derek dug into it, it became apparent that this is a tool for developers and technologists:

Having discussed this a little internally, we think this offering is light years away from a BPM product and doesn’t address many existing BPM barriers — which are not about technology to begin with. “BPM” and “workflow” are not the same thing.

Next up, GigaOm weighs in on Amazon’s announcement:

This is just the latest Amazon service to blur what was once a fairly clear line between a customer’s own data center and Amazon’s public cloud.  In late January, Amazon introduced its Storage Gateway that, as my colleague Derrick Harris reported at the time, lets companies upload data to Amazon’s cloud-storage services directly from their on-premise storage systems. That happened just a week after it unveiled its DynamicsDB NoSQL database.

The focus of GigaOm’s analysis is a few quotes from Amazon personnel, and the orchestration of automated, loosely coupled services.  Sounds a lot like BPEL at this point.

Finally, Neil Ward-Dutton takes a shot at understanding Amazon’s SWF offering:

So: has Amazon introduced a technology that will be useful to organisations looking to implement BPM projects in the cloud? And: how does this fit into the other offerings that are currently available?


To be clear – Amazon’s SWF is a programming framework which will help developers to handle stateful and potentially long-running workflows without having to write loads of tedious custom infrastructure code; and that means that for lots and lots of application developers building SaaS and PaaS propositions, it’s something that is definitely worth exploring.

But he concludes that SWF is not a BPM tool or platform.  It looks to me like a great way to manage automated work pipelines if you’re already embedded with Amazon’s cloud.  By offering new services, Amazon increases the overall stickiness of their platform.  And if it were a true BPMS, it would certainly be disruptive from a revenue model standpoint.  But as it is, it is targeted at developers rather than businesses.

Still, it may not be long before we see a BPMS offered and priced the same way.  It will change the way people buy BPM in the future if it catches on.

Side note: We’ve been playing with SWF a bit ourselves, and it is pretty cool as a developer tool.  We’ll report back if we have learned anything new and interesting.

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