In 2009, I wrote a blog about Parker Harris, the co-founder of Salesforce.com titled The Loneliness of a Pioneer. I wrote
“..in some ways he wishes the larger vendors would be there today. There are common engineering and plumbing challenges every competitor hits which are useful to share experiences around. It would be good for the industry.”
At the Workday Tech Summit this week, in talking to several of its executives, I got a very different vibe. They are not looking for such guidance from other enterprise vendors as they scale volumes not seen in cloud transaction processing world – a billion (complex financial, payroll etc) transactions a month, ledgers which scale to 200 million journal lines etc.
They are increasingly turning to the consumer web for guidance. Whether it be planning for availability zones, disaster recovery, denial of service or exabytes of data there were repeated mentions of Amazon, Google, Apple, Yahoo!, Netflix and others. Interestingly, the biggest competition for development talent is also coming from the consumer web.
There was a subtle confidence – and yet humility – when David Clarke led a session about how “complex systems are always broken”. He described simulations crews undertake on a cruiser called MS ANTWERPEN and how they react to varying degrees of emergencies.
Workday is extremely successful and they could easily have spent the day gloating, but I quite liked the paranoia that came through in many of the presentations and side conversations.
The reality is Workday is at a juncture. They can continue on their path of financial, HR and analytical product leadership. Or they can expand into many new industries and countries.
The temptations are many. As part of my SAP Economy book research I had several CIOs ask me if/when Workday was likely to expand into their industries. I spoke to a small sample. You can imagine the extent of requests Workday executives are getting directly.
Aneel Bhusri, CEO and his execs are being very measured. Partly, they bring some gating memories from PeopleSoft world where vertical and geographic expansion was uneven. Partly, the culture is modest – not given to hype or overreaction.
Either way – whether they stay on current path or they expand into new sectors- the effort they are putting into scaling and fortifying the infrastructure is commendable.
Unlike previous Tech Summits, this was a relatively quiet one. But it was set in the stunning setting of the Presidio. There was a “speak softly, carry a big stick” feel with artifacts of military history all around us.
Yes, Workday has matured into a thoughtful, if quiet, enterprise cloud leader.
(Cross-posted @ DealArchitect Full)