Globus Automate Overview

The Globus Automate platform provides tools and services which can be used to create reliable processes for research data management. The platform builds on the foundation of Globus capabilities such as Authorization and Data Transfer.

The Automate Platform introduces a few key concepts which may then be extended and combined to create custom processes solving particular research data management problems. These concepts are Action Providers, Actions, and Flows. Read on to learn about how Flows orchestrate Action Providers together in order to create Actions that perform the actual automation.

Use Cases

The key to the platform is enabling users to orchestrate multiple processing steps into a single workflow, or Flow. Some of these steps are provided by Globus Automate and othes of which may be custom implementations supporting a specific need. Examples of these workflows might be:

  • Automatically detect data output from scientific instruments which is then transferred, processed, and indexed.

  • Provide a curated pipeline for description, annotation and publication of research datasets.

  • Run data transfers on a recurring schedule.

Action Providers

An Action Provider is an HTTP accessible service which acts as a single step in a process and implements the Action Provider Interface [TODO - insert ref]. When an Action Provider is invoked, it creates (or “provides”) an Action which represents a single unit of work. Examples of units of work are running a file transfer using Globus Transfer or ingesting data into Globus Search.

Each Action Provider expects to be invoked with parameters particular to the service it provides. To support usability and discovery, each can be introspected to determine what its input schema or input properties are. Introspection also provides information such as who operates the Action Provider, descriptive text on the service it provides, and who can use the service. Access to Action Providers and their invocation is controlled via Globus Auth. Some of these services may be synchronous meaning that an invocation will complete in the context of the HTTP request that triggered it. Other services support asynchronous activities, meaning that the invocation will persist beyond the HTTP request that invoked it and the the caller must monitor the Action for updates on when it is completed and its result.

Globus operates a series of these Action Providers available for public use. For a full list of these Action Providers, see [TODO - insert reference]. Globus also supports users writing their own Action Providers via the Globus Action Provider Toolkit - a Python SDK that makes it easy to provide custom services that can be tied into the Globus Automate ecosystem of services.

These Action Providers form the foundation of Globus Automate and are primarily used by referencing their URLs in Flows. Globus Automate allows users to flexibly piece together these individual services to create reliable high level workflows.


An Action represents a single, discrete invocation of an Action Provider. It is record of an operation and includes details for its result, its current execution status, and metadata dictating which Globus Auth identities are allowed to read or modify the Action’s state. Globus Automate services allow orchestrating these individual Actions into robust processes that can tolerate their distinct execution states, including success and failure. Users will not often need to operate on Actions directly, rather, the User will create a Run of a Flow and the Run will invoke Action Providers, creating Actions as necessary to accomplish the automation.


A Flow represents a single process that orchestrates a series of services into a self contained operation. One can think of a Flow as a declaratively defined ordering of Action Providers with condition handling to define expected success or failure scenarios.

A Flow may be defined and deployed to the Flows service by any user. When deploying, the user may control which other users can discover the Flow and separately, which users can run the Flow. All access control is provided by Globus Auth. Thus, Flows can easily and safely be shared among users. Once deployed, the Flow will receive a HTTP-accessible Flow URL which makes it available for use in Globus Automate.

It may also be interesting to note that once deployed, the Flow will implement the Action Provider Interface. What this means is that a Flow is technically a form of Action Provider, and as such it can be referenced by other Flows by its Flow URL. This allows for modularity in defining Flows and in a separation of concerns where SubFlows can be trusted to provide some process or behavior.

When users run an instance of the Flow, we call that a Run. A Run shares the Action interface, supporting operations such as viewing its status, cancelling its execution, and removing its execution state. This allows for common tooling and terminology for working with Runs and Actions. In general, any operation available on an Action will be possible on a Run and vice versa.

Globus Automate imposes no restrictions on how long a Run may execute or on the number of units of work defined in a Flow. We support long running Runs by providing support for monitoring and status updates.

Authentication and Authorization

An important consideration in the Globus Automate platform is authentication and authorization. All interactions with Action Providers Actions and Flows are authenticated by the Globus Auth.

For Action Providers and Flows, authorization lists exist to control which identities can view its details and which identities can invoke an Action of Run of the service. For Actions and Runs, authorization lists exist to enforce which identities may view its execution details and which identities may modify the execution status. For these authorization lists, identities may be specified as individual Globus users or as Globus Groups. Thus, while the Globus Automate platform is open to all users with access, it is possible to carefully control which users have access to your resources.

When authorization lists are in place, the values take the form of urns specifying individual users or groups of users based on Globus Groups. When specifiying a user in an authorization list, the principal value will be the user’s UUID prefixed with urn:globus:auth:identity:. When specifying a Globus Group in the list, the principal value needs to be the Group’s UUID prefixed with urn:globus:groups:id:.


To determine a Globus user’s ID, you can use the globus CLI:

globus get-identities

To determine the Globus Group’s ID, you can search for the Group in the webapp.

Two special values, public and all_authenticated_users may also be user in authorization lists. public indicates that the operation is allowed for requests that have no authorization, and all_authenticated_users indicates that any user who presents a Globus Auth credential in the form of an access token is permitted access.