What is a Workflow?

A workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of business activity enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes that transform materials, provide services, or process information.


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What is a Workflow?

What is Cylc?

Cylc (pronounced silk) is a workflow engine, a system that automatically executes tasks according to schedules and dependencies.

In a Cylc workflow each step is an application: an executable command, script, or program. Cylc runs each task as soon as it is appropriate to do so.

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What is Cylc?

Cylc and Cycling Workflows

A cycling workflow is a repetitive process involving many interdependent tasks. Cylc tasks wrap arbitrary applications: executable commands, scripts, or programs. Example use cases include:

  • Processing many similar datasets, through a pipeline or graph of tasks

  • Forecasting systems that generate new forecasts at regular intervals

  • Splitting a long model run and associated processing tasks into many smaller runs

  • Iterative tuning of model parameters by model, processing, and validation tasks

Cycling systems were traditionally managed by repeat-running the single-cycle workflow, finishing each new cycle before starting the next. Sometimes, however, it can be much more efficient to run multiple cycles at once. Even in real time forecasting systems that normally have a gap between cycles waiting on new data, this can greatly speed catch up from delays or downtime. But it can’t be done if the workflow manager has a global loop that handles only one cycle at a time and does not understand any intercycle dependence that may be present.


Cylc handles inter- and intra-cycle dependence equally, and it unrolls the cycle loop to create a single non-cycling workflow of repeating tasks, each with its own individual cycle point.


This removes the artificial barrier between cycles. Cylc tasks can advance constrained only by their individual dependencies, for maximum concurrency across as well as within cycles. This allows fast catch-up from delays in real time systems, and sustained high throughput off the clock.

How to Run User Guide Examples

Many Cylc concepts and features in this document are illustrated with minimal snippets of workflow configuration. Most of these can be turned into a complete workflow that you can actually run, with a few easy steps:

  • Add scheduling section headings, if missing, above the graph

  • Use [scheduler]allow implicit tasks = True to automatically create dummy definitions for each task

  • Configure the root task family to make the dummy jobs take a little time to run, so the workflow doesn’t evolve too quickly

  • For cycling graphs, configure an initial cycle point to start at

For example, here is a small cycling workflow graph:

# Avoid caffeine withdrawal
PT6H = "grind_beans => make_coffee => drink_coffee"

And here it is as a complete runnable workflow:

    allow implicit tasks = True
    initial cycle point = now
        # Avoid caffeine withdrawal
        PT6H = "grind_beans => make_coffee => drink_coffee"
        script = "sleep 10"