Workday Rides the Metrics Wave, Cruises to Wavefront’s Customer Excellence Award

March 8, 2017 Rob Markovich

At Wavefront, we annually recognize one customer that best exemplifies and shares our vision for a metrics-driven approach to cloud application monitoring.

With this past year, Wavefront is fortunate to consider such a strong list of customers, and it wasn’t easy to call out just one for this award. But we did it.

I’m proud to announce that the 2016 Wavefront Customer Excellence Award goes to Workday, a preeminent SaaS provider of human resource and financial management solutions. With a highly successful IPO in 2012 and consistently high revenue growth since, Workday’s enterprise cloud applications help organizations staff, pay, and organize their workforce.

The Workday / Wavefront business relationship has evolved and expanded over the years to something we mutually view more as a partnership of sorts.

As we try to do with all our customers, Wavefront is focused on enabling Workday’s success, by helping them to move faster on a stable cloud application infrastructure through the expanded use of observability and monitoring.

At Wavefront’s 2017 company kick-off conference at the start of 2017, I invited Catherine Renwick, Workday’s VP Platform Engineering, to join me for a brief, fireside chat and award presentation (a customized and very cool surfboard, by the way).

Catherine’s Platform Engineering organization at Workday is responsible for a multitude of things that sit between the infrastructure and the applications on top. Their primary objective is to help developers get code into production faster. As Catherine explains:

“Platform is everything that you need to abstract the infrastructure away from your developers, or from your applications and your application services. Things that fall into my area of responsibility are things like configuration management and security tools. It’s monitoring and everything that goes into monitoring. Virtualization also fits in Platform. We take care of pipeline engineering, to help developers build their pipeline and get their code into production. It’s also deployment tools, tools for managing properties, and service discovery. Platform encompasses all of those things that you need in order to be able to deploy your applications servers.”


“The idea of having a Platform group is to allow developers to get code into production more quickly. In my group, we thought about this a long time to try and figure out what’s the magic of Platform. It’s easy to say we provide greater usability so it saves money as it does this and it does that. But actually, the bigger value driver behind Platform is to allow developers to get their code into production more quickly, which means that they can get features out more quickly and if they get features our more quickly, then everyone is happier.”


So everything that is monitoring falls into Catherine’s group. She further explains what monitoring means at Workday:

“Monitoring is a really probably an overused term in the industry. Monitoring for us actually means four things. We say monitoring, but it’s not strictly monitoring. For Workday, it means alerting, stats, metrics, and logs. That’s monitoring for us. Here’s the way I explain this to people when they say, “Hey, I just want one tool that tells me all the things.” It’s kind of difficult to have one tool because you have an entirely different set of data that you need to present for different pieces. I think of it like it’s a house and the house contains all the data, but you’ve got different windows into the house that you need to look through to get different views. You’ve got the logging window, and you’ve got the metrics window, and you’ve got the stats, and then you’ve got alerting.”


Wavefront got its start at Workday by providing them the metrics piece of monitoring, an immediate ‘metrics pane of glass’ into the data that they have. Catherine elaborates on the initial key value that Wavefront provided to Workday:

“About four years ago, we decided we needed to heavily invest in the whole monitoring area. We decided that this was critical to Workday. We were doing some, the alerting, before then. We ‘kind of’ knew whether something bad was happening. But we needed to invest more in this area.”

“At the time, monitoring or alerting used to be part of every team, but then we took it out and we made it a team of its own. We said, ‘Okay, you are the monitoring team. Your job is to add all the tools that we need to monitor our services and to make them really, really great.’ We then decided to spin off this team. You can’t fix all the problems at once, so what we did was we decided to create a roadmap where we fixed specific things. The first thing that we set our sights on was alerting. We wanted to be better at knowing if something is going to fail before our customers know. We decided to put a lot of effort into alerting and improve how we alert. Now we generally know if something is happening before our customer knows it.”

“Then we decided to invest in logs so we decided, ‘Well, we want logs because we want the extra data.’ We are going to push off metrics, but then we became aware of a new type of monitoring tool built around metrics, at a new company, Wavefront.”“The value that gave us, which was really quite important at the time, was we didn’t have a lot of effort to spare. We couldn’t spend a lot of engineering cycles making a metrics platform work. We kind of wanted something that was effort-free. In fairness, Wavefront gave us something that was effort-free. It gave us metrics with very little set up on our part. We were able to just pump our metrics data through the system and people got access to that. We were really happy because we checked off the metrics checkbox on our to-do list, and with very little effort on our part and it meant that we could concentrate on other areas that were also important to us.”


Wavefront usage has quickly expanded to over 700 Workday developers, giving them insights from unified metric dashboards, query-driven analytics, and smarter alerts. Catherine shared additional perspective on why the fast adoption right out of the gate:

“Three things that we find really great about working with Wavefront, the first is support. When we have an issue, we generally get someone who’s extremely knowledgeable very quickly and they resolve our issue generally in a very short amount of time. That’s gold. That really is gold. In case you’re thinking if that’s really a big deal, well, that doesn’t always happen with other vendors.”

“Second, we have never noticed an operational blip. That’s really valuable because we use your tool to know when our customers might be suffering. If your tool is down, then we might not know that our customers are suffering. By you never have operational blips, it means that our customers get a better service from us.

“The third thing is the product works. It does what it does, metrics. It allows us to put metrics in, see them, and use analytics to see more. That’s important to us. Sure, it doesn’t solve the whole monitoring problem, but I don’t think you’re trying to solve the whole problem either, and no one tool can solve it all.”


Looking now to today and the immediate future, Catherine outlined the new phase of metrics monitoring at Workday that she referred to as “self-service metrics”,

“The team is bigger now and we’re moving into a new phase with metrics. We’re now putting a lot of effort into self-service metrics. Up to this point, the monitoring team defined the metrics. In this next phase, and we’re developing this right now, is self-service metrics. That means that development teams are going to be able to build their own metrics. If they’re building their own metrics, then it moves out of the funnel of my monitoring team creating the metrics, and into everyone creating the metrics. Not quite everybody. It depends on what part of the stack you’re in, but a larger set of people will be creating metrics. This means that the monitoring team gets out of the way. It also means more use cases for metrics that my team could possibly dream up.”

Thank you, Catherine Renwick, for taking the time to share your perspectives on a metrics-approach to cloud monitoring, and how Wavefront is used at Workday. Wavefront is proud to service Workday, and we eagerly look forward to supporting everyone there, and to continue to expand our mutually beneficial relationship.

Want to learn more about metrics monitoring, how metrics help developers to get code into production faster, and how to democratize metrics via an organizational roll-out of self-service metrics as-a-service? Contact us now here. Or if you’d rather get a hands-on product demo and online trial, get started here.

The post Workday Rides the Metrics Wave, Cruises to Wavefront’s Customer Excellence Award appeared first on Wavefront by VMware.

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