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This quickstart guide introduces you the main concepts of Zeebe in five steps without the need to write a single line of code.

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.gzcd zeebe-broker-X.Y.Z/

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

Inside the Zeebe directory, you'll 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.

23:39:13.246 [] [main] INFO - Scheduler configuration: Threads{cpu-bound: 2, io-bound: 2}.23:39:13.270 [] [main] INFO - Version: X.Y.Z23:39:13.273 [] [main] INFO - 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.


By default, the embedded gateway listens to a plaintext connection but the clients are configured to use TLS. Therefore, all zbctl commands in the quickstart will specify the --insecure flag.

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

Step 3: Deploy a process#

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

In this guide, we'll 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'll see 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">  <bpmn:extensionElements>    <zeebe:taskDefinition type="payment-service" />  </bpmn:extensionElements></bpmn:serviceTask><!-- [...] --><bpmn:serviceTask id="fetch-items" name="Fetch Items">  <bpmn:extensionElements>    <zeebe:taskDefinition type="inventory-service" />  </bpmn:extensionElements></bpmn:serviceTask><!-- [...] --><bpmn:serviceTask id="ship-parcel" name="Ship Parcel">  <bpmn:extensionElements>    <zeebe:taskDefinition type="shipment-service" />  </bpmn:extensionElements></bpmn:serviceTask><!-- [...] -->

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

First, let's deploy the process to the Zeebe broker.

./bin/zbctl --insecure deploy order-process.bpmn
{  "key": 2251799813685250,  "processes": [    {      "bpmnProcessId": "order-process",      "version": 1,      "processKey": 2251799813685249,      "resourceName": "order-process.bpmn"    }  ]}

See a few concepts important to understand at this point below:

  • A job is simply a work item in a process that must be completed before a process instance can proceed to the next step. (See: Job Workers)
  • A process instance is one running instance of a process model. In our case, this is an individual order to be fulfilled. (See: Processes)

If a job is available for a given process instance, the worker activates it, completes it, and notifies Zeebe. Zeebe then advances that process instance to the next step in the process.

Step 4: Create a process instance#

After the process is deployed, we can create a new instances of it. Every instance of a process is a single execution of the process. To create a new instance, we must 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 process 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 --insecure create instance order-process --variables '{"orderId": 1234}'
{  "processKey": 2251799813685249,  "bpmnProcessId": "order-process",  "version": 1,  "processInstanceKey": 2251799813685251}

Step 5: Complete a process instance#

To complete the instance, all three tasks must be executed. In Zeebe, a job is created for every task which is reached during process instance execution. To finish a job and thereby the corresponding task, must 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 receives for every job the process instance variables as JSON object on stdin and has to return its result also as a JSON object on stdout if it handled the job successfully.

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


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

./bin/zbctl --insecure create worker payment-service --handler cat &./bin/zbctl --insecure create worker inventory-service --handler cat &./bin/zbctl --insecure create worker shipment-service --handler cat &
2019/06/06 20:54:36 Handler completed job 2251799813685257 with variables{"orderId":1234}2019/06/06 20:54:36 Activated job 2251799813685264 with variables{"orderId":1234}2019/06/06 20:54:36 Handler completed job 2251799813685264 with variables{"orderId":1234}2019/06/06 20:54:36 Activated job 2251799813685271 with variables{"orderId":1234}2019/06/06 20:54:36 Handler completed job 2251799813685271 with variables{"orderId":1234}

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

./bin/zbctl --insecure 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

To visualize the state of the process instances, start the Zeebe simple monitor, a community maintained project.