This tutorial should help you to get to know the main concepts of Zeebe without the need to write a single line of code.

  1. Download the Zeebe distribution
  2. Start the Zeebe broker
  3. Deploy a workflow
  4. Create a workflow instance
  5. Complete a workflow instance
  6. Next steps

Note: Some command examples might not work on Windows if you use cmd or Powershell. For Windows users we recommend to use a bash-like shell, i.e. Git Bash, Cygwin or MinGW for this guide.

Step 1: Download the Zeebe distribution

You can download the latest distribution from the Zeebe release page.

Extract the archive and enter the Zeebe directory.

tar -xzvf zeebe-distribution-X.Y.Z.tar.gz
cd zeebe-broker-X.Y.Z/

Inside the Zeebe directory you will find multiple directories.

tree -d
├── bin     - Binaries and start scripts of the distribution
├── conf    - Zeebe and logging configuration
└── lib     - Shared java libraries

Step 2: Start the Zeebe broker

To start a Zeebe broker use the broker or broker.bat file located in the bin/ folder.

23:39:13.167 [] [main] INFO  io.zeebe.util.config - Reading configuration for class class io.zeebe.broker.system.configuration.BrokerCfg from file conf/zeebe.cfg.toml
23:39:13.246 [] [main] INFO  io.zeebe.broker.system - Scheduler configuration: Threads{cpu-bound: 2, io-bound: 2}.
23:39:13.270 [] [main] INFO  io.zeebe.broker.system - Version: X.Y.Z
23:39:13.273 [] [main] INFO  io.zeebe.broker.system - Starting broker with configuration {

You will see some output which contains the version of the broker and configuration parameters like directory locations and API socket addresses.

To continue this guide open another terminal to execute commands using the Zeebe CLI zbctl.

We can now check the status of the Zeebe broker.

./bin/zbctl status
Cluster size: 1
Partitions count: 1
Replication factor: 1
  Broker 0 -
    Partition 1 : Leader

Step 3: Deploy a workflow

A workflow is used to orchestrate loosely coupled job workers and the flow of data between them.

In this guide we will use an example process order-process.bpmn. You can download it with the following link: order-process.bpmn.


The process describes a sequential flow of three tasks Collect Money, Fetch Items and Ship Parcel. If you open the order-process.bpmn file in a text editor you will see that every task has an attribute type defined in the XML which is later used as job type.

<!-- [...] -->
<bpmn:serviceTask id="collect-money" name="Collect Money">
    <zeebe:taskDefinition type="payment-service" />
<!-- [...] -->
<bpmn:serviceTask id="fetch-items" name="Fetch Items">
    <zeebe:taskDefinition type="inventory-service" />
<!-- [...] -->
<bpmn:serviceTask id="ship-parcel" name="Ship Parcel">
    <zeebe:taskDefinition type="shipment-service" />
<!-- [...] -->

To complete an instance of this workflow we would need to activate and complete one job for each of the types payment-service, inventory-service and shipment-service.

But first let's deploy the workflow to the Zeebe broker.

./bin/zbctl deploy order-process.bpmn
  "key": 2251799813685250,
  "workflows": [
      "bpmnProcessId": "order-process",
      "version": 1,
      "workflowKey": 2251799813685249,
      "resourceName": "order-process.bpmn"

Step 4: Create a workflow instance

After the workflow is deployed we can create new instances of it. Every instance of a workflow is a single execution of the workflow. To create a new instance we have to specify the process ID from the BPMN file, in our case the ID is order-process as defined in the order-process.bpmn:

<bpmn:process id="order-process" isExecutable="true">

Every instance of a workflow normally processes some kind of data. We can specify the initial data of the instance as variables when we start the instance.

Note: Windows users who want to execute this command using cmd or Powershell have to escape the variables differently.

  • cmd: "{\"orderId\": 1234}"
  • Powershell: '{"\"orderId"\": 1234}'
./bin/zbctl create instance order-process --variables '{"orderId": 1234}'
  "workflowKey": 2251799813685249,
  "bpmnProcessId": "order-process",
  "version": 1,
  "workflowInstanceKey": 2251799813685251

Step 5: Complete a workflow instance

To complete the instance all three tasks have to be executed. In Zeebe a job is created for every task which is reached during workflow instance execution. In order to finish a job and thereby the corresponding task it has to be activated and completed by a job worker. A job worker is a long living process which repeatedly tries to activate jobs for a given job type and completes them after executing its business logic. The zbctl also provides a command to spawn simple job workers using an external command or script. The job worker will receive for every job the workflow instance variables as JSON object on stdin and has to return its result also as JSON object on stdout if it handled the job successfully.

In this example we use the unix command cat which just outputs what it receives on stdin. To complete a workflow instance we now have to create a job worker for each of the three task types from the workflow definition: payment-service, inventory-service and shipment-service.

Note: For Windows users this command does not work with cmd as the cat command does not exist. We recommend to use Powershell or a bash-like shell to execute this command.

./bin/zbctl create worker payment-service --handler cat &
./bin/zbctl create worker inventory-service --handler cat &
./bin/zbctl create worker shipment-service --handler cat &
2019/06/06 20:54:36 Handler completed job 2251799813685257 with variables
2019/06/06 20:54:36 Activated job 2251799813685264 with variables
2019/06/06 20:54:36 Handler completed job 2251799813685264 with variables
2019/06/06 20:54:36 Activated job 2251799813685271 with variables
2019/06/06 20:54:36 Handler completed job 2251799813685271 with variables

After the job workers are running in the background we can create more instances of our workflow to observe how the workers will complete them.

./bin/zbctl create instance order-process --variables '{"orderId": 12345}'

To close all job workers use the kill command to stop the background processes.

kill %1 %2 %3

If you want to visualize the state of the workflow instances you can start the Zeebe simple monitor.

Next steps

To continue working with Zeebe we recommend to get more familiar with the basic concepts of Zeebe, see the Basics chapter of the documentation.

In the BPMN Workflows chapter you can find an introduction to creating Workflows with BPMN. And the BPMN Modeler chapter shows you how to model them by yourself.

The documentation also provides getting started guides for implementing job workers using Java or Go.