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Conductor is a Workflow Orchestration engine that runs in the cloud.

Motivation

We built Conductor to help us orchestrate microservices based process flows at Netflix with the following features:

  • A distributed server ecosystem, which stores workflow state information efficiently.
  • Allow creation of process / business flows in which each individual task can be implemented by the same / different microservices.
  • A JSON DSL based blueprint defines the execution flow.
  • Provide visibility and traceability into the these process flows.
  • Simple interface to connect workers, which execute the tasks in workflows.
  • Full operational control over workflows with the ability to pause, resume, restart, retry and terminate.
  • Allow greater reuse of existing microservices providing an easier path for onboarding.
  • User interface to visualize, replay and search the process flows.
  • Ability to scale to millions of concurrently running process flows.
  • Backed by a queuing service abstracted from the clients.
  • Be able to operate on HTTP or other transports e.g. gRPC.
  • Event handlers to control workflows via external actions.
  • Client implementations in Java, Python and other languages.
  • Various configurable properties with sensible defaults to fine tune workflow and task executions like rate limiting, concurrent execution limits etc.

Why not peer to peer choreography?

With peer to peer task choreography, we found it was harder to scale with growing business needs and complexities. Pub/sub model worked for simplest of the flows, but quickly highlighted some of the issues associated with the approach:

  • Process flows are “embedded” within the code of multiple application.
  • Often, there is tight coupling and assumptions around input/output, SLAs etc, making it harder to adapt to changing needs.
  • Almost no way to systematically answer “How much are we done with process X”?