Google Already Fastest-Growing Cloud Vendor, but Thomas Kurian’s Just Getting Started

Thomas Kurian
Thomas Kurian

Google Already Fastest-Growing Cloud Vendor, but Thomas Kurian’s Just Getting Started

CLOUD WARS RANKING

#4

CEO

Thomas Kurian

QUARTERLY CLOUD REVENUE
AS OF NOV. 30, 2020

$3.44 billion

The road to technology-industry hell is littered with the husks of companies, visions, and whiz-bang technologies that somehow forgot that the value of a product resides not in the thing itself but rather on someone’s decision to buy it.

For example, for many years various know-it-alls would rail that XYZ Co.’s technology was somehow vastly superior to everyone else’s but that the stone-dumb public was just going out and buying those other products anyway. And successive legions of “revolutionary technology” companies would, one by one, wither, wobble and then go the way of the dodo.

Before the arrival of CEO Thomas Kurian in January 2019, Google Cloud was beginning to trend in that direction. By all accounts, its technology was extraordinary—and by almost all accounts, it had no real idea what business customers truly wanted and needed, what their priorities were, where they wanted to go, or how to understand the predicament those business customers were in.

And of course with Alphabet/Google as its parent, Google Cloud was never in danger of winding up in dodo-land. But it was surely in danger of becoming largely irrelevant, which is the final resting point before dodo-land.

So the story of how Google Cloud has totally remade itself in the past 2 years is less about technology and more about culture, about leadership, about the willingness to change, about the primacy of the customer—and above all about empathy. And it is with a phenomenal example of such empathy that our story begins.

Google Cloud’s Opportunities

Google Cloud

One year ago, I named Google Cloud’s Thomas Kurian as CEO of the Year. I did so in spite of the fact that he’d been on the job less than a full year, in spite of the fact that its parent company did not have enough confidence in the cloud unit to offer any financial details about it, and in spite of the fact that Google Cloud was still much more about promise than it was about achievement.

But here’s that anecdote about empathy that represents probably the biggest factor behind my decision to highlight Kurian and Google Cloud with that CEO of the Year award. The anecdote comes from Macy’s CTO Naveen Krishna, who shared by email this story about Kurian and Google Cloud:

“I’ve always known Google Cloud has great technology and engineering muscle, but had not seen them address the needs & expectations to serve large enterprises like many of the enterprise-first software & cloud companies did.”

“TK [Kurian’s nickname] has come in and instantly taken this gap head-on to build an enterprise-focused customer-support and go-to-market function that is showing up with a lot more Google engineers to partner with customers, more-specialized solutions for industries, and deeper views into product roadmaps.”

“Having an enterprise-first mindset coupled with Google engineering talent is nirvana for enterprise technologists.”

The point is not about being nice to customers and knowing their kids’ birthdays. Rather, the massive opportunity for Google Cloud is being able to apply its remarkable technology and talent and resources to not only the current needs of customers but also their future aspirations.

The result, as Krishna put it, is “nirvana for enterprise technologists” as is eager to deliver “a lot more Google engineers to partner with customers, more-specialized solutions for industries, and deeper views into product roadmaps.”

Perhaps the biggest of all the very big opportunities for Google Cloud are those “more-specialized solutions for industries” cited by Krishna.

That’s an entirely new product category that Kurian mentioned in  his early days at Google Cloud and that quickly became such a point of emphasis for him that he described it early this year as his top priority.

In February, Kurian spoke at a Goldman Sachs investors conference and in my analysis of his remarks about the remarkable new category of industry-specific solutions—a piece called Google Launches New Era in Cloud with AI-Powered Industry Solutions—I wrote the following:

In staking out that position, Kurian emphasized that in developing and offering these entirely new solutions, Google Cloud will leverage a wide range of expertise from across the entire Google organization: ML, AI, big data, analytics, digital marketing and advertising, understanding consumer behavior, being able to predict consumer behavior, product discovery, and more.

Kurian also emphasized that Google Cloud has zero intention of developing traditional enterprise applications such as those used for CRM, HCM and ERP. Rather, Kurian said, this new wave of AI- and ML-powered solutions will extract data from those traditional “line-of-business” applications and then use advanced technologies and capabilities to optimize specific outcomes for complex industry-specific challenges.

Kurian offered multiple example of this new breed of AI-powered solutions that address modern business challenges that point to where the business world is headed and what will be required, rather than merely quantifying and recording where it has been.

Retail: Reimagining Macy’s Supply Chain

Macy’s challenge—and the valued so highly by CTO Krishna—was that it was trying to apply traditional tools to a digital challenge. Rather than requiring Macy’s to under a massive, expensive and time-consuming ERP overhaul, Google Cloud enabled Macy’s to keep all those solutions in place, extract valuable and timely data from them, and feed that data into that into Google Cloud’s AI- and ML-powered analytics platform to optimize Macy’s distribution operations to meet the new digitally driven requirements.

That article from February I cited earlier—Google Launches New Era in Cloud with AI-Powered Industry Solutions—also offers details on industry-specific solutions for UPS for optimized scheduling; Uniqlo for inventory management and optimization; Lufthansa for scheduling optimization; product discovery in retail; and more.

Other areas of huge opportunity for Google Cloud

 

  • I believe Big Query is an vastly underleveraged asset;
  • multicloud platform Anthos has an enormous TAM;
  • Google Cloud’s increasingly close relationship with SAP has huge potential; and
  • the much-needed overhaul and unification of its Workspace productivity suite gives Google Cloud a high-value entry point at the user level.

Google Cloud’s Challenges

Salesforce

The morning I was writing this in mid-November, Google had a market cap of $1.2 trillion—it’s nice to have resources, eh? But in the category of challenges, I must also point out that the market caps of Microsoft and Amazon that same morning were about 40% higher.

So as Google Cloud tries to play catchup in the IaaS segment, it will require enormous investments to keep up with two of the very few companies on Earth that have deeper pockets than it does. The good news is Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat indicated in Alphabet’s Q3 earnings call late last month that the company’s ready to do just that. From my recent piece called Google Cloud’s Big Win: the Remarkable 2-Year Journey of CEO Thomas Kurian:

On Alphabet’s Q3 earnings call, CFO Ruth Porat said, “The point that both Sundar [CEO Sundar Pichai] and I have underscored is that we are investing aggressively in cloud, given the opportunity that we see and frankly the fact that we were later relative to peers. We’re very encouraged by the pace of customer wins and the very strong revenue growth in both GCP and Workspace. But we do intend to maintain a high level of investment to best position ourselves.”

Can Oracle Make a Run at Google Cloud?

Another worthy—and hungry—challenge will come from Oracle with its a broad set of revamped solutions that will, across a broad spectrum, give Google Cloud a serious run for customers’ hearts, minds, and wallets:

 

  • OCI Gen2 infrastructure that Oracle claims is much faster, cheaper, and more secure than anything else out there;
  • Autonomous Database and a related suite of data-management services;
  • a Cloud Analytics suite optimized to pull and analyze data from Oracle’s own Fusion SaaS apps; and
  • even a forthcoming suite of industry-specific solutions that chairman Larry Ellison says will apply the best of those Fusion apps along with industry-specific knowledge with advanced AI and ML capabilities (more on that in Larry Ellison Wants It All—Can Oracle Get It?).

 

Oh wait—one more very big challenge to Google’s founders: don’t let Thomas Kurian go anywhere!

Cloud Wars Top 10 by Market Cap
(as of Nov. 25, 2020)

1. Microsoft

$1.62 Trillion

2. Amazon AWS

$1.59 Trillion

3. Google

$1.2 Trillion

4. Adobe

$225.5 Billion

5. Salesforce

$224.6 Billion

6. Oracle

$172.9 Billion

7. SAP

$139.1 Billion

8. IBM

$110.6 Billion

9. ServiceNow

$101.3 Billion

10. Workday

$51.57 Billion

Google Cloud

Google Cloud’s Opportunities

One year ago, I named Google Cloud’s Thomas Kurian as CEO of the Year. I did so in spite of the fact that he’d been on the job less than a full year, in spite of the fact that its parent company did not have enough confidence in the cloud unit to offer any financial details about it, and in spite of the fact that Google Cloud was still much more about promise than it was about achievement.

But here’s that anecdote about empathy that represents probably the biggest factor behind my decision to highlight Kurian and Google Cloud with that CEO of the Year award. The anecdote comes from Macy’s CTO Naveen Krishna, who shared by email this story about Kurian and Google Cloud:

“I’ve always known Google Cloud has great technology and engineering muscle, but had not seen them address the needs & expectations to serve large enterprises like many of the enterprise-first software & cloud companies did.”

“TK [Kurian’s nickname] has come in and instantly taken this gap head-on to build an enterprise-focused customer-support and go-to-market function that is showing up with a lot more Google engineers to partner with customers, more-specialized solutions for industries, and deeper views into product roadmaps.”

“Having an enterprise-first mindset coupled with Google engineering talent is nirvana for enterprise technologists.”

The point is not about being nice to customers and knowing their kids’ birthdays. Rather, the massive opportunity for Google Cloud is being able to apply its remarkable technology and talent and resources to not only the current needs of customers but also their future aspirations.

The result, as Krishna put it, is “nirvana for enterprise technologists” as is eager to deliver “a lot more Google engineers to partner with customers, more-specialized solutions for industries, and deeper views into product roadmaps.”

Perhaps the biggest of all the very big opportunities for Google Cloud are those “more-specialized solutions for industries” cited by Krishna.

That’s an entirely new product category that Kurian mentioned in  his early days at Google Cloud and that quickly became such a point of emphasis for him that he described it early this year as his top priority.

In February, Kurian spoke at a Goldman Sachs investors conference and in my analysis of his remarks about the remarkable new category of industry-specific solutions—a piece called Google Launches New Era in Cloud with AI-Powered Industry Solutions—I wrote the following:

In staking out that position, Kurian emphasized that in developing and offering these entirely new solutions, Google Cloud will leverage a wide range of expertise from across the entire Google organization: ML, AI, big data, analytics, digital marketing and advertising, understanding consumer behavior, being able to predict consumer behavior, product discovery, and more.

Kurian also emphasized that Google Cloud has zero intention of developing traditional enterprise applications such as those used for CRM, HCM and ERP. Rather, Kurian said, this new wave of AI- and ML-powered solutions will extract data from those traditional “line-of-business” applications and then use advanced technologies and capabilities to optimize specific outcomes for complex industry-specific challenges.

Kurian offered multiple example of this new breed of AI-powered solutions that address modern business challenges that point to where the business world is headed and what will be required, rather than merely quantifying and recording where it has been.

Retail: Reimagining Macy’s Supply Chain

Macy’s challenge—and the valued so highly by CTO Krishna—was that it was trying to apply traditional tools to a digital challenge. Rather than requiring Macy’s to under a massive, expensive and time-consuming ERP overhaul, Google Cloud enabled Macy’s to keep all those solutions in place, extract valuable and timely data from them, and feed that data into that into Google Cloud’s AI- and ML-powered analytics platform to optimize Macy’s distribution operations to meet the new digitally driven requirements.

That article from February I cited earlier—Google Launches New Era in Cloud with AI-Powered Industry Solutions—also offers details on industry-specific solutions for UPS for optimized scheduling; Uniqlo for inventory management and optimization; Lufthansa for scheduling optimization; product discovery in retail; and more.

Other areas of huge opportunity for Google Cloud

 

  • I believe Big Query is an vastly underleveraged asset;
  • multicloud platform Anthos has an enormous TAM;
  • Google Cloud’s increasingly close relationship with SAP has huge potential; and
  • the much-needed overhaul and unification of its Workspace productivity suite gives Google Cloud a high-value entry point at the user level.

Google Cloud’s Challenges

The morning I was writing this in mid-November, Google had a market cap of $1.2 trillion—it’s nice to have resources, eh? But in the category of challenges, I must also point out that the market caps of Microsoft and Amazon that same morning were about 40% higher.

So as Google Cloud tries to play catchup in the IaaS segment, it will require enormous investments to keep up with two of the very few companies on Earth that have deeper pockets than it does. The good news is Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat indicated in Alphabet’s Q3 earnings call late last month that the company’s ready to do just that. From my recent piece called Google Cloud’s Big Win: the Remarkable 2-Year Journey of CEO Thomas Kurian:

On Alphabet’s Q3 earnings call, CFO Ruth Porat said, “The point that both Sundar [CEO Sundar Pichai] and I have underscored is that we are investing aggressively in cloud, given the opportunity that we see and frankly the fact that we were later relative to peers. We’re very encouraged by the pace of customer wins and the very strong revenue growth in both GCP and Workspace. But we do intend to maintain a high level of investment to best position ourselves.”

Can Oracle Make a Run at Google Cloud?

Another worthy—and hungry—challenge will come from Oracle with its a broad set of revamped solutions that will, across a broad spectrum, give Google Cloud a serious run for customers’ hearts, minds, and wallets:

Cloud Wars Top 10 by Market Cap
(as of Nov. 25, 2020)

1. Microsoft

$1.62 Trillion

2. Amazon AWS

$1.59 Trillion

3. Google

$1.2 Trillion

4. Adobe

$225.5 Billion

5. Salesforce

$224.6 Billion

6. Oracle

$172.9 Billion

7. SAP

$139.1 Billion

8. IBM

$110.6 Billion

9. ServiceNow

$101.3 Billion

10. Workday

$51.57 Billion

  • OCI Gen2 infrastructure that Oracle claims is much faster, cheaper, and more secure than anything else out there;
  • Autonomous Database and a related suite of data-management services;
  • a Cloud Analytics suite optimized to pull and analyze data from Oracle’s own Fusion SaaS apps; and
  • even a forthcoming suite of industry-specific solutions that chairman Larry Ellison says will apply the best of those Fusion apps along with industry-specific knowledge with advanced AI and ML capabilities (more on that in Larry Ellison Wants It All—Can Oracle Get It?).

 

Oh wait—one more very big challenge to Google’s founders: don’t let Thomas Kurian go anywhere!

Unique Differentiation

Just as many business customers today are hampered in their attempts to drive aggressively into the future by the presence of vast swaths of traditional or even outdated technology, so too are some tech companies bogged down in their attempts to modernize their capabilities and their outlooks by the old stuff they need to drag forward with them.

Not so Google Cloud—it’s a cloud-native showcase on the tech side. Even more important, though, are Kurian’s twin messages about the need for customer empathy and the need to look forward, not backward.

That is a unique and powerful differentiator for Google Cloud: having the modern technological foundation to meet the needs of the digital future, and the leadership mindset that keeps Google Cloud’s vast resources focused on customers and in particular what those customers will need in the future.

If there was one single message that I could convey to every leader in not just the tech industry but in every industry, it would be these words from Kurian from a presentation he gave early this year:

And finally, Kurian emphasized that because the cloud industry has changed, is changing, and will continue to change at a blistering pace, it’s wise to look at the market as it is becoming, rather than as it is.

“Today, where people want cloud to be is not about [infrastructure and packaged apps]. It’s really about, ‘can you give me new capabilities that I could not get before?’ So, we’re very focused on executing our plan. Lateness, earliness, I don’t worry about that,” Kurian said.

“We don’t get distracted by anybody telling us about where we are in the market. We’re focused on executing. When we win customers, they say what we’re offering is truly unique.

“And we don’t think that the way cloud and the market looks 3 years out will be the way it does today.”

Helping Customers See Their Futures in a New Way

And just what will the cloud and the market look like in 2 or 3 years? Kurian has fused the promise of helping businesses see that future into the mission of Google Cloud: “To accelerate every organization’s ability to digitally transform their business and to reimagine their business through data-powered innovation.”

It’s not enough for Google Cloud to enable and speed up a customer’s digital transformation; rather, the company has taken to heart the even more-challenging responsibility to help customers “reimagine their businesses through data-powered innovation.” And in service to that mission are Google Cloud’s “data-powered” solutions:

 

  • industry-specific apps;
  • Big Query;
  • analytics;
  • world-class cloud infrastructure services;
  • new data-management and migration tools;
  • Anthos;
  • Workspace;
  • and the ability to understand consumer behavior through close engagement with other parts of the Google empire.

 

Will Anthos Live Up to Expectations?

When it was introduced last year, no one had heard of anything quite like Anthos—a magic elixir enabling mismatched clouds to interoperate harmoniously? Or a unique application-modernization solution whose value is greatly amplified by Google Cloud’s decision to have it be completely compatible with AWS and Azure? Well, if Google Cloud’s going to truly be able to help customers “reimagine their businesses through data-powered innovation,” then it sure will help if Anthos can allow them to get far beyond today’s current mess of data and application integration.

Powerful and High-Level Differentiator: CEO Thomas Kurian

Last December, after Kurian was named our CEO of the Year, I sat down with him at Google Cloud headquarters for a fascinating 25-minute interview. And while I’ve already mentioned his focus on customer empathy in a few contexts, it is impossible to overstate how important that is today as businesses must overcome an unprecedented set of challenges and disruptions more quickly than anyone pre-2020 would have thought possible. I encourage you to check out the entire interview—and here’s Kurian on the empathy thing:

“That expertise has to be matched with empathy with what customers are facing. And we need the combination of those two: the expertise we have on products and technology blended with a deep appreciation of what’s the problem they’re trying to solve. It’s definitely that combination.”

Unique Differentiation

Just as many business customers today are hampered in their attempts to drive aggressively into the future by the presence of vast swaths of traditional or even outdated technology, so too are some tech companies bogged down in their attempts to modernize their capabilities and their outlooks by the old stuff they need to drag forward with them.

Not so Google Cloud—it’s a cloud-native showcase on the tech side. Even more important, though, are Kurian’s twin messages about the need for customer empathy and the need to look forward, not backward.

That is a unique and powerful differentiator for Google Cloud: having the modern technological foundation to meet the needs of the digital future, and the leadership mindset that keeps Google Cloud’s vast resources focused on customers and in particular what those customers will need in the future.

If there was one single message that I could convey to every leader in not just the tech industry but in every industry, it would be these words from Kurian from a presentation he gave early this year:

And finally, Kurian emphasized that because the cloud industry has changed, is changing, and will continue to change at a blistering pace, it’s wise to look at the market as it is becoming, rather than as it is.

“Today, where people want cloud to be is not about [infrastructure and packaged apps]. It’s really about, ‘can you give me new capabilities that I could not get before?’ So, we’re very focused on executing our plan. Lateness, earliness, I don’t worry about that,” Kurian said.

“We don’t get distracted by anybody telling us about where we are in the market. We’re focused on executing. When we win customers, they say what we’re offering is truly unique.

“And we don’t think that the way cloud and the market looks 3 years out will be the way it does today.”

Helping Customers See Their Futures in a New Way

And just what will the cloud and the market look like in 2 or 3 years? Kurian has fused the promise of helping businesses see that future into the mission of Google Cloud: “To accelerate every organization’s ability to digitally transform their business and to reimagine their business through data-powered innovation.”

It’s not enough for Google Cloud to enable and speed up a customer’s digital transformation; rather, the company has taken to heart the even more-challenging responsibility to help customers “reimagine their businesses through data-powered innovation.” And in service to that mission are Google Cloud’s “data-powered” solutions:

 

  • industry-specific apps;
  • Big Query;
  • analytics;
  • world-class cloud infrastructure services;
  • new data-management and migration tools;
  • Anthos;
  • Workspace;
  • and the ability to understand consumer behavior through close engagement with other parts of the Google empire.

 

Will Anthos Live Up to Expectations?

When it was introduced last year, no one had heard of anything quite like Anthos—a magic elixir enabling mismatched clouds to interoperate harmoniously? Or a unique application-modernization solution whose value is greatly amplified by Google Cloud’s decision to have it be completely compatible with AWS and Azure? Well, if Google Cloud’s going to truly be able to help customers “reimagine their businesses through data-powered innovation,” then it sure will help if Anthos can allow them to get far beyond today’s current mess of data and application integration.

Powerful and High-Level Differentiator: CEO Thomas Kurian

Last December, after Kurian was named our CEO of the Year, I sat down with him at Google Cloud headquarters for a fascinating 25-minute interview. And while I’ve already mentioned his focus on customer empathy in a few contexts, it is impossible to overstate how important that is today as businesses must overcome an unprecedented set of challenges and disruptions more quickly than anyone pre-2020 would have thought possible. I encourage you to check out the entire interview—and here’s Kurian on the empathy thing:

“That expertise has to be matched with empathy with what customers are facing. And we need the combination of those two: the expertise we have on products and technology blended with a deep appreciation of what’s the problem they’re trying to solve. It’s definitely that combination.”

Leadership

Kurian has driven Google Cloud to become the fastest-growing company among the Cloud Wars Top 10, a list comprised of the largest and fastest-growing enterprise-technology companies in the world. Here’s a quick look at that list ranked by cloud-revenue growth rates:

 

  1. Google Cloud 44.8% (for 3 months ended Sept. 30)
  2. Oracle 33% *estimated* (3 months ended Aug. 31)
  3. Microsoft 31% (3 months ended Sept. 30)
  4. 3-way tie:

Amazon AWS 29%  (3 months ended Sept. 30)

Salesforce 29%  (3 months ended July 31)

ServiceNow 29%  (3 months ended Sept. 30)

  1. Workday 23% (3 months ended July 31)
  2. IBM 19% (3 months ended Sept. 30)
  3. SAP 14% (3 months ended Sept. 30)
  4. Adobe Digital Experience 7% (3 months ended Aug. 31)
Salesforce
Thomas Kurian

Kurian’s Achievements

So per that cloud-revenue growth-rate list, Google Cloud stands out sharply as the fastest-growing major cloud vendor by a huge margin. That type of growth, of course, is the ultimate objective of Kurian and his leadership team, which includes the outstanding Rob Enslin, who’s the president of Google Cloud.

As I noted in a recent piece headlined Google Cloud Growing 50% Faster than Microsoft, Amazon; Q3 Pace Tops Q2, Kurian’s team managed to grow faster in Q3 than in Q2—44.8% to 43%–and while its revenue is at this point only a fraction of that AWS or of Microsoft’s cloud business, Google Cloud has become without question a huge force to be reckoned with in the marketplace.

As noted, he’s championed a customer-first culture across Google Cloud, and that was a necessary ingredient to make that growth rate possible.

He’s pushed the company into new areas where it’s unique abilities have created the powerful new category of industry-specific solutions.

And he has fashioned reasons for business customers to place a very high degree of trust in Google Cloud, another ingredient that’s indispensable in today’s environment:

 

  • the sense of empathy that Kurian has spoken about;
  • the customer-first outlook that Macy’s CTO Krishna celebrated in the anecdote above;
  • a Customer Experience team, headed by the former Microsoft executive John Jester, that transcends the “Customer Success” programs prevalent among the top cloud companies today;
  • an open-source strategy that seeks to lower the risk that business customers face in dealing with small open-source companies while raising the market opportunities for those companies in today’s fast-paced digital world; and
  • managing to show a humble approach to customers. That approach was typified in this closing remark from Kurian’s keynote at the Google Next virtual event in July: “This is a very defining moment for all of us around the world. To have the hope and the optimism to reimagine your business as you recover from the pandemic, we at Google take responsibility to support you in that mission.” (For more on that, please see Google Cloud Booms: Thomas Kurian’s Vision for the World’s Fastest-Growing Cloud.)

 

All of those achievements point to far greater success for Google Cloud in the future, and Alphabet leadership has recognized and rewarded, in a significant way, the unique status achieved by Kurian and his cloud unit. In the company’s Q3 earnings call, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said that beginning with the realease of Q4 results, Alphabet would break out Google Cloud’s numbers in a separate reporting segment and offer much more detail about its financial performance.

Here’s how Pichai—the CEO of one of the world’s most powerful, visible and valuable corporations—described the new status for Google Cloud:

Starting with the results for the fourth quarter of 2020, we’ll break out Google Cloud as a separate reporting segment. I’m working with Ruth and Thomas Kurian to make investment decisions to drive progress here.

As we have told you on these calls, given the progress we are making and the opportunity for Google Cloud in this growing global market, we continue to invest aggressively to build our go-to-market capabilities, execute against our product roadmap, and extend the global footprint of our infrastructure.

With this segmentation, you’ll additionally see information about the scale of our investments, which should help you gauge the progress we are making on the multi-year path ahead to create sustainable value.

And bear in mind that at this point, Google Cloud’s Q3 revenue of $3.44 billion represents only 7.5% of Alphabet’s total Q3 revenue of $46.2 billion. That is a perfect example of outsized impact.

And in a larger sense, Kurian has delivered a perfect example of outsized leadership to a company that has the unique potential to ultimately challenge Microsoft as the world’s most-influential enterprise-cloud company. I recently went into greater detail on this final point in Google Cloud’s Big Win: the Remarkable 2-Year Journey of CEO Thomas Kurian.

Leadership

Salesforce
Thomas Kurian

Kurian has driven Google Cloud to become the fastest-growing company among the Cloud Wars Top 10, a list comprised of the largest and fastest-growing enterprise-technology companies in the world. Here’s a quick look at that list ranked by cloud-revenue growth rates:

 

  1. Google Cloud 44.8% (for 3 months ended Sept. 30)
  2. Oracle 33% *estimated* (3 months ended Aug. 31)
  3. Microsoft 31% (3 months ended Sept. 30)
  4. 3-way tie:

Amazon AWS 29%  (3 months ended Sept. 30)

Salesforce 29%  (3 months ended July 31)

ServiceNow 29%  (3 months ended Sept. 30)

  1. Workday 23% (3 months ended July 31)
  2. IBM 19% (3 months ended Sept. 30)
  3. SAP 14% (3 months ended Sept. 30)
  4. Adobe Digital Experience 7% (3 months ended Aug. 31)

 

Kurian’s Achievements

So per that cloud-revenue growth-rate list, Google Cloud stands out sharply as the fastest-growing major cloud vendor by a huge margin. That type of growth, of course, is the ultimate objective of Kurian and his leadership team, which includes the outstanding Rob Enslin, who’s the president of Google Cloud.

As I noted in a recent piece headlined Google Cloud Growing 50% Faster than Microsoft, Amazon; Q3 Pace Tops Q2, Kurian’s team managed to grow faster in Q3 than in Q2—44.8% to 43%–and while its revenue is at this point only a fraction of that AWS or of Microsoft’s cloud business, Google Cloud has become without question a huge force to be reckoned with in the marketplace.

As noted, he’s championed a customer-first culture across Google Cloud, and that was a necessary ingredient to make that growth rate possible.

He’s pushed the company into new areas where it’s unique abilities have created the powerful new category of industry-specific solutions.

And he has fashioned reasons for business customers to place a very high degree of trust in Google Cloud, another ingredient that’s indispensable in today’s environment:

 

  • the sense of empathy that Kurian has spoken about;
  • the customer-first outlook that Macy’s CTO Krishna celebrated in the anecdote above;
  • a Customer Experience team, headed by the former Microsoft executive John Jester, that transcends the “Customer Success” programs prevalent among the top cloud companies today;
  • an open-source strategy that seeks to lower the risk that business customers face in dealing with small open-source companies while raising the market opportunities for those companies in today’s fast-paced digital world; and
  • managing to show a humble approach to customers. That approach was typified in this closing remark from Kurian’s keynote at the Google Next virtual event in July: “This is a very defining moment for all of us around the world. To have the hope and the optimism to reimagine your business as you recover from the pandemic, we at Google take responsibility to support you in that mission.” (For more on that, please see Google Cloud Booms: Thomas Kurian’s Vision for the World’s Fastest-Growing Cloud.)

 

All of those achievements point to far greater success for Google Cloud in the future, and Alphabet leadership has recognized and rewarded, in a significant way, the unique status achieved by Kurian and his cloud unit. In the company’s Q3 earnings call, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said that beginning with the realease of Q4 results, Alphabet would break out Google Cloud’s numbers in a separate reporting segment and offer much more detail about its financial performance.

Here’s how Pichai—the CEO of one of the world’s most powerful, visible and valuable corporations—described the new status for Google Cloud:

Starting with the results for the fourth quarter of 2020, we’ll break out Google Cloud as a separate reporting segment. I’m working with Ruth and Thomas Kurian to make investment decisions to drive progress here.

As we have told you on these calls, given the progress we are making and the opportunity for Google Cloud in this growing global market, we continue to invest aggressively to build our go-to-market capabilities, execute against our product roadmap, and extend the global footprint of our infrastructure.

With this segmentation, you’ll additionally see information about the scale of our investments, which should help you gauge the progress we are making on the multi-year path ahead to create sustainable value.

And bear in mind that at this point, Google Cloud’s Q3 revenue of $3.44 billion represents only 7.5% of Alphabet’s total Q3 revenue of $46.2 billion. That is a perfect example of outsized impact.

And in a larger sense, Kurian has delivered a perfect example of outsized leadership to a company that has the unique potential to ultimately challenge Microsoft as the world’s most-influential enterprise-cloud company. I recently went into greater detail on this final point in Google Cloud’s Big Win: the Remarkable 2-Year Journey of CEO Thomas Kurian.

The Big Questions for Google Cloud

  • Can Google Cloud continue to tighten its partnership with SAP and possibly displace Microsoft as SAP’s BFF in the cloud?

  • As enterprise-applications leaders such as SAP, Oracle and Microsoft all get into the red-hot market for industry-specific and AI-powered solutions, will Google Cloud be able to continue to offer differentiated solutions?

  • Can Google Workspace cut meaningfully into Microsoft’s big lead in productivity suites?

  • Anthos has generated a huge amount of interest due to its potential for helping solve a longtime major problem for business customers—will Google Cloud be able to bring that potential to life as part of a complete set of advanced solutions?

  • As the demand for data-driven insights continues to soar, can Big Query become a market-leading analytics solution?

About The Author

I’ve analyzed the enterprise-tech business for more than 25 years as an editorial executive and more recently as Chief Communications Officer at Oracle. I’ve written thousands of articles and columns about business innovation, strategy, leadership, disruptive technology, digital transformation, cloud computing, AI and more. In late 2016, I resigned from Oracle to launch the Cloud Wars franchise. It began with the Cloud Wars Top 10 ranking and weekly articles, and has since expanded into daily articles, a weekly newsletter, a podcast with more than 200 episodes, and now this one-of-a-kind Special Report.

About The Author

About The Author

I’ve analyzed the enterprise-tech business for more than 25 years as an editorial executive and more recently as Chief Communications Officer at Oracle. I’ve written thousands of articles and columns about business innovation, strategy, leadership, disruptive technology, digital transformation, cloud computing, AI and more. In late 2016, I resigned from Oracle to launch the Cloud Wars franchise. It began with the Cloud Wars Top 10 ranking and weekly articles, and has since expanded into daily articles, a weekly newsletter, a podcast with more than 200 episodes, and now this one-of-a-kind Special Report.

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