August 22, 2010

Workday comments on its database architecture

In my discussion of Workday’s technology, I gave an estimate that Workday’s database, if relationally designed, would require “1000s” of tables. That estimate came from Workday, Inc. CTO Stan Swete, in a thoughtful email that made several points about Workday’s database strategy. Workday kindly gave me permission to quote it below.

I would say thousands. The object model for our applications consists of over 2000 classes. On average these classes have multiple relationships with other classes so that would have some kind of multiplicative effect when it came to using tables.

One example of where you’d be proliferating tables (and not getting as satisfactory of a solution relationally) is worktags. Currently we have a class for worktags. Instances of this class can point to various instances of detail lines (expense lines, po lines, invoice lines, etc…). A detail line can have many worktags pointing to it. To model this relationally you’d need either a separate table for each type of detail line in the system to store the tags associated with it or a single worktag for detailed line table that could be foreign keyed for all types of detail lines that would store their worktag. Either way involves more tables and more clunkiness.

Another example of where our oo designs wouldn’t directly translate is our ability to describe to shared part of a detail line in one class and have all instances of detail lines inherit the fields that are shared. To do this relationally you’d probably replicate the shared fields in each table representing the various kinds of transactional details (again lines, po lines, invoice lines, etc…). You’d lose the ability to maintain and change the shared fields (and the processing logic for those fields) in one place.

Anyway, I’d go with “thousands” as our answer. I do think this is an interesting question and wish we had more time to figure out a more accurate answer.

This post is part of a three-post series


3 Responses to “Workday comments on its database architecture”

  1. The Workday architecture — a new kind of OLTP software stack | DBMS 2 -- DataBase Management System Services on August 22nd, 2010 6:27 am

    […] way of comparison, Workday estimates that if its software were written relationally, there would be 1000s of tables, which would take up 10-100X as much disk […]

  2. Workday, Inc. company overview | DBMS 2 -- DataBase Management System Services on August 22nd, 2010 6:28 am

    […] Inc. CTO Stan Swete’s comments on database strategy Categories: Pricing, Software as a Service (SaaS), Workday  Subscribe to our complete […]

  3. More on NoSQL and HVSP (or OLRP) | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on February 22nd, 2011 7:30 pm

    […] I’m seeing is serious object-oriented apps banging things straight into a simple back end. Workday is a huge example of that. Akiban hopes to do something similar with […]

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