Thomas Kurian
Thomas Kurian

Watch Out, Microsoft and Amazon: Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian Plans To Be #1

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In a compelling overview of Google Cloud’s strategic direction and technological strengths, new CEO Thomas Kurian revealed that Google Cloud’s already established significant presence in about half of the world’s top 10 companies in retail, in media, in financial services, in manufacturing, and in automobiles.

And showcasing his belief that such levels of penetration are only the beginning, Kurian specifically promised that “you will see us compete much more aggressively as we go forward.”

Thomas Kurian

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology Investors conference, Kurian repeatedly made the point that under his leadership, Google Cloud will rapidly create sales and marketing capabilities on par with its highly regarded technological prowess as he aims to win major share among “some of the largest customers on Earth.”

At the same time, however, Kurian also made it clear that Google Cloud’s broad and deep technological prowess in data centers, data management, security, engineering and development will remain the engine that Kurian says will ultimately put Google Cloud on par with or even ahead of the current leaders in the Cloud Wars: Microsoft and Amazon.

“The foundation for this is Google’s world-class data-center infrastructure—today, Google transmits and transfers over 25% of all internet traffic in the world,” Kurian said in his presentation at the investors conference.

“Our world-class data-center network allows us to share both the capability we are building to power other Google properties, but also from a cost point of view it gives us a material advantage over other cloud providers, and is able to distribute workloads in ways that other cloud providers do not have.”

Throughout Kurian’s prepared remarks at the event and in the followup Q&A, it became increasingly clear how he intends to position Google Cloud against market leaders Microsoft and Amazon.

Google Cloud vs. #1 Microsoft: While Kurian did not mention Microsoft by name, his remarks about Google Cloud’s intentions made it clear that he’ll look to position his company as far more technologically advanced than Microsoft starting in the data center and extending out through AI, security and more. The challenge Kurian will have is that, technology aside, Microsoft has already created and unleashed a superb go-to-market and sales organization that for Google Cloud remains at this point purely an aspiration.

Google Cloud vs. #2 Amazon: In a couple of instances, Kurian specifically described how his company’s capabilities extend beyond and above the infrastructure and platform layers of the cloud, and those are the two areas–particularly IaaS–where Amazon is a powerhouse. By emphatically stating that he plans to leverage Google Cloud’s presence at the top of the stack in the SaaS layer, Kurian–without mentioning Amazon’s name–was acknowledging that the application and collaboration segments will differentiate Google Cloud sharply from Amazon.

Kurian, who joined Google Cloud late last year after a brilliant 22-year career at Oracle where he ultimately was given the newly created position of president of product development, emphasized that his objective is to hypercharge Google Cloud’s growth by capitalizing on and extending the deep customer loyalty the company’s generated across hundreds of large companies in six major industries across the globe.

“We have remarkable customer loyalty,” Kurian said. “The customers we work with love our technology, and as we go forward, we’re putting in place a new ‘Customers For Life’ program that will attract, retain and convert more customers into advocacy.”

Noting that Google’s a favorite among “digital native” companies and social-media companies, Kurian added, “But—but—over the last 12 months, we have also shifted our focus to go after more-traditional companies, and we are seeing very strong adoption in a number of industries.

“Not just in small companies in those industries, but among the largest companies in those industries—and you will see us continue to focus our go-to-market effort on going after some of the largest customers on Earth.”

To achieve that, Google Cloud is creating a 5-tier account structure—named, enterprise, corporate, digital natives, and SMB—and significantly beefing up the vertical-industry expertise among its sales organization.

“We’re specializing our sales teams to talk to specific industries in the language of that industry,” Kurian said. “We are hiring some of the best talent from around the industry to grow our sales organization, and you will see us compete much more aggressively as we go forward.”

In addition, Google Cloud also intends to scale up its partner and channel ecosystem, an area of enormous interest across all the major cloud vendors and one in which Microsoft in particular has shown some remarkable innovationand growth.

In discussing Google Cloud’s technological capabilities, Kurian outlined five key strengths that the enhanced sales organization will be able to tout:

  • infrastructure modernization;
  • application development to optimize customer experience;
  • data management at scale to enhance digital opportunities for customers;
  • smart analytics to provide customers with deeper insights; and
  • collaboration tools to transform how people work together.

In addition, Kurian listed five key differentiators that will, in the eyes of customers, separate Google Cloud from its competitors:

  • best-in-class security and reliability;
  • hybrid cloud and multi-cloud solutions to give customers greater choice;
  • easy-to-use and lower-cost cloud services due to advanced autonomous operations;
  • advanced AI and ML capabilities embedded into the company’s cloud services; and
  • complete industry solutions.

In the Q&A session, Goldman Sachs analyst Heather Bellini asked Kurian to talk about what attracted him to Google (he took the position a few months after resigning from Oracle). And it was interesting to see that for all of Kurian’s deep-technology expertise and the reverence he clearly has for world-class engineering and development, his answer was centered on customers.

“What attracted me to Google uniquely was talking to customers,” he said. “I talked to some of the largest companies and said, ‘Why did you choose Google?’ And uniformly, the feedback I got was, ‘It’s the best technology in the market—the technology’s amazing—I’ve never seen anything like it.’

“That’s what I’ve heard over and over again. And there’s a lot of operational knowledge—technology in cloud is not just the software—it’s the data-center designs, it’s also the operational history of running a cloud at scale. Here’s a very simple example: when was the last time you found Google Search down? You can’t think of a time—and that’s because of the amazing architecture in how we design the network and how we distribute search over the world that you never, ever, ever experience it down,” Kurian said.

“So as I talked to customers, I realized Google’s greatest strength is the technology infrastructure and the assets they have. The biggest opportunity was to build a real world-class go-to-market capability.

“And that’s what we’re all about.”

Watch out, world—the already-fierce Cloud Wars are about to get much more intense.

(Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Microsoft was a client of Evans Strategic Communications LLC.)

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