Amazon just announced the launch of Amazon Simple Workflow (SWF). An API that allows anyone to use their services to manage distributed workflow between applications & services….
The main question, if you are a business manager is: "Why should I give a damn?"
The answer is: because it is a perfect illustration of what the API model can bring to a business if you understand and accept it.
What just happened is that you can now build "amazon quality level" applications relying on Amazon infrastructure, entirely at variable costs, and delegate to AWS the tedious, costly, and complicated tasks.
Setting-up and most importantly, making work any workflows based service is one of the most complicated challenges when building professional task management software, and it requires special skills in hosting, infrastructure management, error handling, communications, etc... And if you want to send a task from one service to another, it gets worse.
So if I am a startup with a cool idea (ie. A freemium approval process manager, having a document circulate for approval between several persons not on the same building, company and timezone) I'll spend a lot of resources on trying to build a robust hosting and workflow management system. If I have 50K€ to build my prototype or beta, I will spend at least half of it on solving tricky timeout, errors, hosting & pinging problems... and probably fail somewhat.But my first customer might want something that works on a "mission critical" level before using it, not something mostly working. So they will say "good potential, but not reliable enough", and even with the best design and user experience, we know how this ends. No one needs an almost working product.
Using SWF's API, I can focus on my front end user experience, have my php or ruby junior buddy developer develop it, and not care or be encumbered with the "big IT" problems. Amazon already solved these, and I can access it, use it, embed it. Chances are I'll get to market faster, and have a much more robust beta on the market. This is a huge competitive advantage. My resources will be focused and spent on my core. And at project start stage, this is critical.This is the type of API that can allow quick and robust prototyping. We should know, understand and adopt it. When discussing a project or a new product, let's keep that in mind. Using API's instead of proprietary developments is the "startup way", and how we can gain speed, agility, traction and efficiency in new products development implementation.
This is how digital natives think : "Api-ify" to other expert services, collaborate with someone doing something very well, not code propriety (and burden, and costs). Win on your core competency, fast and focused.
As a business owner, of course, you have to trust Amazon. Should you?
I believe so, but will tell you why, and much more on this a bit later.