Step Functions


AWS Step Functions are a powerful way to express long-running, complex workflows comprised of Lambda functions. With Sparta 0.20.2, you can build a State Machine as part of your application. This section walks through the three steps necessary to provision a sample “Roll Die” state machine using a single Lambda function. See SpartaStep for the full source.

Lambda Functions

The first step is to define the core Lambda function Task that will be our Step function’s core logic. In this example, we’ll define a rollDie function:

// Standard AWS λ function
func lambdaRollDie(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
	// Return a randomized value in the range [1, 6]
	rollBytes, rollBytesErr := json.Marshal(&struct {
		Roll int `json:"roll"`
		Roll: rand.Intn(5) + 1,
	if rollBytesErr != nil {
		http.Error(w, rollBytesErr.Error(), http.StatusInternalServerError)
	w.Header().Add("Content-Type", "application/json")

State Machine

Our state machine is simple: we want to keep rolling the die until we get a “good” result, with a delay in between rolls:

State Machine

To do this, we use the new functions to define the other states.

// Make all the Step states
lambdaTaskState := step.NewTaskState("lambdaRollDie", lambdaFn)
successState := step.NewSuccessState("success")
delayState := step.NewWaitDelayState("tryAgainShortly", 3*time.Second)
lambdaChoices := []step.ChoiceBranch{
    Comparison: &step.NumericGreaterThan{
      Variable: "$.roll",
      Value:    3,
    Next: delayState,
choiceState := step.NewChoiceState("checkRoll",

The Sparta state types correspond to their AWS States Spec equivalents:

The choiceState is the most interesting state: based on the JSON response of the lambdaRollDie, it will either transition to a delay or the success end state.

See godoc for the complete set of types.

The lambdaTaskState uses a normal Sparta function as in:

lambdaFn := sparta.HandleAWSLambda("StepRollDie",

lambdaFn.Options.MemorySize = 128
lambdaFn.Options.Tags = map[string]string{
  "myAccounting": "tag",

The final step is to hook up the state transitions for states that don’t implicitly include them, and create the State Machine:

// Hook up the transitions

// Startup the machine with a user-scoped name for account uniqueness
stateMachineName := spartaCF.UserScopedStackName("StateMachine")
startMachine := step.NewStateMachine(stateMachineName, lambdaTaskState)

At this point we have a potentially well-formed Lambda-powered State Machine. The final step is to attach this machine to the normal service definition.

Service Decorator

The return type from step.NewStateMachine(...) is a *step.StateMachine instance that exposes a ServiceDecoratorHook. Adding the hook to your service’s Workflow Hooks (similar to provisioning a service-scoped CloudWatch Dashboard) will include it in the CloudFormation template serialization:

// Setup the hook to annotate
workflowHooks := &sparta.WorkflowHooks{
  ServiceDecorator: startMachine.StateMachineDecorator(),
userStackName := spartaCF.UserScopedStackName("SpartaStep")
err := sparta.MainEx(userStackName,
  "Simple Sparta application that demonstrates AWS Step functions",

With the decorator attached, the next service provision request will include the state machine as above.

INFO[0000] ══════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════
INFO[0000]    _______  ___   ___  _________
INFO[0000]   / __/ _ \/ _ | / _ \/_  __/ _ |     Version : 0.20.2
INFO[0000]  _\ \/ ___/ __ |/ , _/ / / / __ |     SHA     : 740028b
INFO[0000] /___/_/  /_/ |_/_/|_| /_/ /_/ |_|     Go      : go1.9.1
INFO[0000] ══════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════
INFO[0000] Service: SpartaStep-mweagle                   LinkFlags= Option=provision UTC="2017-11-01T02:03:04Z"
INFO[0000] ══════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════
INFO[0000] Provisioning service                          BuildID=69ecad9a90c763922e292cd22d63b6874dd3195c CodePipelineTrigger= InPlaceUpdates=false NOOP=false Tags=
INFO[0000] Verifying IAM Lambda execution roles
INFO[0000] IAM roles verified                            Count=1
INFO[0000] Checking S3 versioning                        Bucket=XXXXXXXXX VersioningEnabled=true
INFO[0000] Running `go generate`
INFO[0000] Compiling binary                              Name=Sparta.lambda.amd64
INFO[0010] Executable binary size                        KB=20162 MB=19
INFO[0010] Creating code ZIP archive for upload          TempName=./.sparta/
INFO[0011] Creating NodeJS/Sparta proxy function         FunctionName=StepRollDie ScriptName=StepRollDie
INFO[0011] Lambda code archive size                      KB=20261 MB=19
INFO[0011] Uploading local file to S3                    Bucket=XXXXXXXXX Key=SpartaStep-mweagle/ Path=./.sparta/
INFO[0026] Calling WorkflowHook                          WorkflowHook="*StateMachine).StateMachineDecorator.func1" WorkflowHookContext="map[]"
INFO[0026] Uploading local file to S3                    Bucket=XXXXXXXXX Key=SpartaStep-mweagle/SpartaStep_mweagle-cftemplate.json Path=./.sparta/SpartaStep_mweagle-cftemplate.json
INFO[0027] Creating stack                                StackID="arn:aws:cloudformation:us-west-2:000000000000:stack/SpartaStep-mweagle/dbc121a0-bea8-11e7-8184-503acbd4dcfd"
INFO[0045] Waiting for CloudFormation operation to complete
INFO[0067] Waiting for CloudFormation operation to complete
INFO[0085] Stack provisioned                             CreationTime="2017-11-01 02:03:30.945 +0000 UTC" StackId="arn:aws:cloudformation:us-west-2:000000000000:stack/SpartaStep-mweagle/dbc121a0-bea8-11e7-8184-503acbd4dcfd" StackName=SpartaStep-mweagle
INFO[0085] ──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────
INFO[0085] SpartaStep-mweagle Summary (2017-10-31T19:04:29-07:00)
INFO[0085] ──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────
INFO[0085] Verifying IAM roles                           Duration (s)=0
INFO[0085] Verifying AWS preconditions                   Duration (s)=0
INFO[0085] Creating code bundle                          Duration (s)=11
INFO[0085] Uploading code                                Duration (s)=15
INFO[0085] Ensuring CloudFormation stack                 Duration (s)=59
INFO[0085] Total elapsed time                            Duration (s)=85
INFO[0085] ──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────


With the stack provisioned, the final step is to test the State Machine and see how lucky our die roll is. Navigate to the Step Functions service dashboard in the AWS Console and find the State Machine that was provisioned. Click the New Execution button and accept the default JSON. This sample state machine doesn’t interrogate the incoming data so the initial JSON is effectively ignored.

For this test the first roll was a 4, so there was only 1 path through the state machine. Depending on your die roll, you may see different state machine paths through the WaitState.

State Machine

Wrapping Up

AWS Step Functions are a powerful tool that allows you to orchestrate long running workflows using AWS Lambda. State functions are useful to implement the Saga pattern as in here and here. They can also be used to compose Lambda functions into more complex workflows that include parallel operations on shared data.


  • Minimal State machine validation is done at this time. See Tim Bray for more information.
  • Value interrogation is defined by JSONPath expressions