What is AWS Step Functions?

AWS Step Functions provides serverless orchestration for modern applications. Orchestration centrally manages a workflow by breaking it into multiple steps, adding flow logic, and tracking the inputs and outputs between the steps.

As your applications execute, Step Functions maintains application state, tracking exactly which workflow step your application is in, and stores an event log of data that is passed between application components. That means that if networks fail or components hang, your application can pick up right where it left off.

Application development is faster and more intuitive with Step Functions, because you can define and manage the workflow of your application independently from its business logic. Making changes to one does not affect the other.

You can easily update and modify workflows in one place, without having to struggle with managing, monitoring and maintaining multiple point-to-point integrations.

Step Functions frees your functions and containers from excess code, so your applications are faster to write, more resilient, and easier to maintain.

Below we will go through some of the main features of AWS Step Functions, and show how they can benefit your application development in the cloud.  

What are Step Functions' features?

Visual and easy -to-use workflow configuration

Using AWS Step Functions, you define your workflows as state machines, which transform complex code into easy to understand statements and diagrams. Building apps, and confirming that they are implementing your desired functionality, is quicker and easier. Read more about how Step Functions works.

Built-in error handling, timeouts and parallel processing flow for distributed applications

AWS Step Functions provides ready-made steps for your workflow called states that implement basic service primitives for you, which means you can remove that logic from your application. States can pass data to other states and microservices, handle exceptions, add timeouts, make decisions, execute multiple paths in parallel, and more. Learn more about states.

Direct integration with 220 AWS services and over 10,000 APIs

Using AWS Step Functions Service Integrations, you can configure your Step Functions workflow to call over 220 AWS services. This includes:

  • Compute services (AWS Lambda, Amazon ECS, Amazon EKS, and AWS Fargate)
  • Database services (Amazon DynamoDB)
  • Messaging services (Amazon SNS and Amazon SQS), data processing
  • Analytics services (Amazon Athena, AWS Batch, AWS Glue, Amazon EMR, and AWS Glue DataBrew)
  • Machine learning services (Amazon SageMaker)
  • APIs created by Amazon API Gateway

 Learn more about Service Integrations.

Coordination of distributed components

AWS Step Functions can coordinate any application that can make an HTTPS connection, regardless of where it is hosted—for example, on Amazon EC2 instances, mobile devices, or on-premises servers. Using Step Functions, you can quickly create distributed applications that leverage AWS services as well as your own microservices. Learn more about activity tasks.

Component Resuability enables robust and efficient application development

AWS Step Functions coordinates your existing Lambda functions and microservices into robust applications, and lets you quickly rewire them into new compositions. The tasks in your workflow can run anywhere, including on instances, containers, functions, and mobile devices. Learn how to reuse existing application components.

Shorten development cycles with separation of workflow logic

AWS Step Functions keeps the logic of your application strictly separated from the implementation of your application. You can add, move, swap, and reorder steps without having to make changes to your business logic. Through this separation of concerns, your workflows gain modularity, simplified maintenance, scalability, and code reuse.

Built-in state management and workflow progress tracking

AWS Step Functions maintains the state of your application during execution, including tracking what step of execution it is in, and storing data that is moving between the steps of your workflow. This means you don't have to manage state yourself with data stores or by building complex state management into all of your tasks.

Built-in error handling

AWS Step Functions automatically handles errors and exceptions with built-in try/catch and retry, whether the task takes seconds or months to complete. You can automatically retry failed or timed-out tasks, respond differently to different types of errors, and recover gracefully by falling back to designated clean up and recovery code. Learn more about Step Functions error handling and how you can handle error conditions using a state machine.

Real-time and auditable workflow execution history

AWS Step Functions delivers real-time diagnostics and dashboards, integrates with Amazon CloudWatch and AWS CloudTrail, and logs every execution, including overall state, failed steps, inputs, and outputs. If things go wrong, you can quickly identify not only where, but why, and quickly troubleshoot and remediate failures. Learn more about Step Functions monitoring and logging.

Visual operator dashboard for monitoring and troubleshooting

Launching an application is as simple as pressing a button, then watching the steps execute visually, so you can quickly verify that everything is operating in order – and as expected. The console clearly highlights errors, so you can quickly pinpoint their root-cause, and troubleshoot issues.

High availability and fault tolerant workflows

AWS Step Functions has built-in fault tolerance and maintains service capacity across multiple Availability Zones in each region to protect applications against individual machine or data center failures. This helps ensure high availability for both the service itself and for the application workflow it operates.

Serverless solutions that scale

AWS Step Functions automatically scales the operations and underlying compute to run the steps of your application for you in response to changing workloads. Step Functions scales automatically to help ensure the performance of your application workflow remains consistent as the frequency of requests increases.

High volume orchestration for event processing workflows such as IoT and data ingestion

AWS Step Functions adds Express Workflows. Express Workflows support event rates greater than 100,000 per second, enabling you to build high volume, short duration workflows.

Express Workflows can coordinate AWS Lambda function invocations, AWS IoT Rules Engine actions, and Amazon EventBridge events from over a hundred AWS third-party SaaS event sources.

Learn more about Express and Standard workflows and how they can be used in sample automating architectures in the Step Functions use cases page.

Large-scale parallel processing

Step Functions can iterate over objects such as images, logs, or CSV files stored in Amazon S3, then launch and coordinate thousands of parallel workflows to process the data. You can more quickly and more easily scale thousands of concurrent workflow executions, helping you analyze millions of logs, iterate over terabytes of data or process documents, images, and video files. Learn more about the Step Functions Map state for building large-scale parallel workflows.


AWS Step Functions is integrated with AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), and recommends a least-privileged IAM policy for all of the resources used in your workflow. Step Functions supports VPC Endpoints (VPCE) using AWS PrivateLink. you You can access AWS Step Functions from VPC-enabled AWS Lambda functions and other AWS services without traversing the public internet. Learn more about Step Functions security and authentication.


AWS Step Functions is a HIPAA eligible service, and can be used with applications containing healthcare-related information such as personal health information (PHI). Step Functions is also compliant with SOC (System & Organization Control) measures, and the results of these third-party audits are available on the AWS SOC Compliance site. AWS Step Functions also conforms to other common compliance standards. Understand the compliance scope by reviewing the AWS Cloud Security site.

Pay per use

With AWS Step Functions, you pay for each transition from one state to the next. Billing is metered by state transition, and you do not pay for idle time, regardless of how long each state persists (up to one year). This keeps Step Functions cost-effective as you scale from a few executions to tens of millions. Learn more about Step Functions pricing.

Learn more about AWS Step Functions pricing

Visit the pricing page
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