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The Xero platform – what’s under the hood

Posted 7 years ago in Advisors by
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The Xero platform is one of the keys to Xero’s success. The software is built around a solid global accounting engine designed for the cloud to connect small businesses and their business advisors.

The Xero platform from the early days

We started with a big vision and were fortunate to have the resources for real research and development to build the accounting system we always wanted. It has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build the foundations without constraint. This is what makes Xero unique, we had no legacy and were able to build it right.

Check out this video with Kirk Jackson, one of the very first developers at Xero. Together we go behind the scenes on the development of the software from the early days and how some great technical decisions are allowing for continuous innovation from Xero in the small business and accounting markets.

It’s these foundations, and the Xero platform, that allow Xero to move much faster than the incumbents.

The Xero platform

We welcome any questions below.


Heidi Seal
November 7, 2013 at 9.34 am

Fantastic to hear the super smart people making this all the nitty gritty work! It is overwhelming at times to think about all the processes, flow on effects and implications for every new feature release but I loved hearing about what’s under the hood of Xero in this video and the strategic direction guiding the development. Nice work!

Linda J Mandy
November 7, 2013 at 10.52 am

Beautiful Accounting alright! Built with Integrity, the Aussie’s could learn a thing or to from us NZ’rs. If you ever need a sales person in Australia look me up I’ve converted two of my colleagues already!

November 7, 2013 at 1.02 pm

Compare this with the headache a certain competitor must have supporting 2 different cloud versions…

November 7, 2013 at 8.02 pm

Does SHARD have a specific meaning, or should it be SHARED ? But otherwise I really like the diagram

Antony Daamen
November 7, 2013 at 11.16 pm

Thanks guys, very interesting and a good ‘sales-video’ (to show my future clients)

Craig Walker
November 8, 2013 at 4.34 am

@Russell “Shard” is a technical term related to database architecture. Technically it’s a form of horizontal partitioning for databases.

Conceptually we have one shared schema – all our data lives on this one schema (logically separated by a customer key). However physically that can’t scale – there just isn’t enough CPU or memory you could throw at a machine to make database requests stay consistently fast.

So instead of every customer being on of the one database, we have many copies of the schema across many different physical machines. Each of these “shards” houses the data of a certain number of customers (maybe 10,000 customers in each). So rather than having 1 big database, we have lots of little databases. Keeping them small keeps them fast.

I need a whiteboard, but I’ve explained it before using the concept of a parking building. Eventually a parking building gets fill and you can’t physically fit more cars in. So one approach would be to keep building new floors onto the building (known as “scaling up”), however not only does that mean you have the potential for a very tall & unsafe parking building, it also takes longer for cars to find a car space (because they have to go up so many floors). So instead you could just build another parking building next door, and then another one next door to that (known as “scaling out”). It’s a more efficient architecture when dealing with lots of cars.

That explain it?

Jason Elliott in reply to Craig Walker
March 8, 2018 at 9.20 pm

Great reply, and I love the car-parking analogy!

November 8, 2013 at 1.27 pm

Nice video and chart guys, great to see what makes Xero tick!

November 8, 2013 at 2.26 pm

Great explanation – thanks Craig

Moira Milligan
November 10, 2013 at 11.52 am

Enjoyed the video very much..just confirmed AGAIN that I made the correct decision to make my practice 100% Xero. Great job guys!

Joel Davis
November 22, 2013 at 12.34 pm

Great video, explains how Xero has managed to scale their system so well and how easy it is for software developers to integrate to Xero.

Anderson Fortaleza
July 31, 2014 at 9.39 pm

@Craig Walker back ten, did you implement the sharding yourselves or did you ave tis kind of feature ready in a database engine already?

Roman Gaufman
November 22, 2017 at 12.37 am

Doesn’t really talk about the platform? – From what I can tell, the frontend is built with ExtJS, graphs are generated by D3.js, the backend is hosted by and the web server is NGinx. Would be interesting to know what the database is, etc.

Adrian Maudsley
July 20, 2020 at 1.48 am

Agree with Roman. Would be very interested to know what tech is actually be using in each tier

Beeny Atherton in reply to Adrian Maudsley Xero
July 20, 2020 at 3.14 pm

Hi Adrian – you might find what you are looking for on our Xero Developer blog.

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