During Oracle’s quarterly earnings call this week, CEO Larry Ellison used a rather inoccuous question about object-oriented programming to cite Workday as the only cloud company “on the planet” that doesn’t use a database.
And that decision of omission is one of two “fundamental mistakes” Workday has made and will have to overcome, according to Ellison.
The other error cited by Ellison was Workday’s decision to base its UI on Flash, which isn’t supported on two of the most-popular mobile devices used in the corporate world: Apple’s iPad and iPhone.
In a way, Ellison’s critique of Workday’s strategy is a compliment to the HCM company founded by Dave Duffield and Aneel Bhusri because it shows that even though Workday is only about 1/200th the size of Oracle, it’s clearly on Ellison’s radar.
“Okay, the question is on object-oriented programming, and does it eliminate the need for a database,” said Ellison by way of framing the beginning of his response in very broad terms. “Well, object-oriented programming has been around for a very, very long time—it was invented at Xerox Parc in the late ’70s and early ’80s so that was 30 years ago and there are still databases.”
Ellison then turned his focus to Workday.
“The only cloud company I know that decided to forego a database—that thinks that database technology isn’t necessary any more—the only one on the planet, that I know of—is Workday,” Ellison said. Instead, he said, Workday uses its own technology, a choice that will eventually become a problem.
“But the fact that Workday built their own database is one of, I think, their two fundamental mistakes that they made. The other fundamental mistake is that their UI is all Flash—it’s all Flash UI—Adobe Flash—which is not supported on the iPad, and is not supported on the iPhone,” Ellison said.
“And they have begun the process to rewrite, completely, their UI. They said they’ve built some special stuff for iPad and iPhone. But eventually they’re gonna have to move away from Flash to HTML5, I believe. Otherwise, they’re gonna have to maintain two separate Uis: one for iPads and iPhones, and the other for Androids and personal computers. Which makes no sense.”
But, Ellison added, the even bigger problem for Workday will be its database strategy because it will force the fast-growing but relatively small company to spend significant amounts of time and money building and supporting database tools, which is not its core business.
“A much worse mistake was the fact that they are alone, of all the modern cloud companies, to think they can do without a database. I think it’s a fundamental mistake and it’s going to create all sorts of problems for them down the road,” Ellison said.
“They’re basically—this small company is basically going to have to build all of their own database technology. I mean, they need recovery, they need query processing, they need ad-hoc reporting, they need all of these things. They’re gonna have to build out that tool set themselves rather than relying on us likeSalesforce.com does,” said Ellison, who also mentioned in the same context Netsuite, SuccessFactors, and SAP.
“But Workday? They’re gonna rely on themselves.”
(Follow me on Twitter at bobevansSAP.)