Workday aims at enterprises with cloud ERP as IPO approaches

Workday unveiled upcoming versions of its cloud-based ERP (enterprise-resource-planning) software on Tuesday during an event in Las Vegas, and in the process fired a warning shot across the bow of the likes of Oracle and SAP.

Version 16 of Workday's suite, due for release in coming months, will feature upgrades to its financials module that will enable the vendor to "run the workloads of the largest companies in the world," co-CEO and founder Aneel Bhusri said during a keynote address, which was webcast. "There might be gaps in functionality, but they're closing quickly. We're looking for those lighthouse customers."

For one, the system will be able to run payrolls of up to 100,000 workers. "Not many companies have more than 100,000 people in one geography, so we are really starting to take on the largest companies in the world," he said.

Bhusri started and runs Workday along with co-CEO Dave Duffield, who founded PeopleSoft, a company famously acquired by Oracle through a hostile takeover. Bhusri is a PeopleSoft veteran as well, having served as the vice chairman of its board for several years, among other roles.

At PeopleSoft, Duffield was known for his folksy leadership style, which has carried through to Workday. On Tuesday, he characterized Workday as one happy family.

"We're all on the same version of the system and consequently speak the same language," he told the Las Vegas crowd. "At an Oracle or SAP or Lawson user conference, you couldn't say that."