Amazon SWF stands for Simple Workflow Service. The Amazon SWF API allows developers to set specific business processes and follow through each step. The API allows for automation of processes, including determining which step is currently being executed, correcting when a step gets broken and analyzing outcomes.
The service separates its actions into five categories: activities, deciders, workflow executions, administration and visibility. Regardless of category, developers can poll an activity's task, mark an activity task as complete, mark an activity task as failed, mark an activity task as canceled or record a "heartbeat," so the service knows a task is still active.
There are numerous actions within each category, such as retrieving, setting and removing workflows.
The API uses JSON-RPC (remote procedure call) to execute commands. The system returns data as JSON, as well.
Amazon's latest addition to its web services suite, the Amazon SWF API, is meant to connect many of its other services together. At first a bit generic to wrap your brain around. SWF, or Simple Workflow, can be connected to any services, including self-hosted systems and other cloud providers. Amazon has created a framework to step through complex business and development processes.