Workday announced today that it has passed the 100-customer mark, and the milestone struck me as another important rite of passage. Such milestones are especially important in emerging markets that have not yet achieved mainstream recognition. In Workday’s case, this arguably represents a substantial step forward in the enterprise-class SaaS-based application market. Following in the successful footsteps of salesforce.com, NetSuite and others, Workday is extending the new SaaS paradigm into human resources and financial applications, with marquee customers such as Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Valspar Corporation helping them get to this new level of customer success.
Workday is doing this by focusing on delivery; it touts a 120-day average phase-one implementation timeframe. The economic leverage of SaaS solutions, which turn the old “implementation is a multiple of acquisition cost” model on its head, works to Workday’s advantage, but only if it can deliver. In its press release, Workday points to a 38-day implementation cycle for Stone River as an example of its nimble deployment model. While it’s unlikely that this happens often, it’s an impressive benchmark nonetheless.
The note reminded me of recent conversations with Vertica, a firm attempting to help drive a similar mainstream status for the emerging ADBMS market. My conversations with Dave Menninger and others at Vertica have given me a perspective not unlike that of AMR’s Jeffrey Freyermuth, who recently concluded that Workday was about to crack the barrier. With its own big name wins like JP Morgan Chase and Verizon, and a steady cadence of product releases, Vertica has been on a roll. As Q3 began, they were approaching 90 customers, and I’m aware of several wins in recent weeks, which leads me to believe that they are rapidly approaching a similar moment in their growth. And the hill Vertica must climb is steeper: they are a more traditionally licensed, high-cost enterprise software platform without some of the built-in advantages of Workday’s SaaS approach.
I’ve talked elsewhere about Vertica’s technical innovations; its 3.5 release added substantially to a growing list of features. But the true test of credibility for a company in an emerging space is its ability to deliver those features to customers, and keep them happy. Vertica has invested steadily and wisely to ramp up sales and marketing efforts. Marketing is a critical component, but punchy campaigns and flashy web sites mean nothing unless companies buy and keep investing in a technology. As it approaches the 100-customer mark, Vertica has proven that it is delivering what enterprises want – fast database technology that solves real-world business problems. Like Workday, it may be following some larger pioneers, but it’s carving out a leadership role for itself at a rapid pace. I’m watching with interest to see how well it holds its momentum in Q4 and beyond.