On November 16, 2018, Diane Greene announced that Thomas Kurian would replace her as head of Google’s cloud division.
Greene’s stepping down did not come as a surprise to industry leaders. Earlier in the year, Greene received backlash from Google employees for supplying the U.S. military with artificial intelligence tools to aid drone attacks. Greene quickly announced the deal would not be renewed, but the event was a large part of Google’s decision to bow out of the bidding for a $10 billion military cloud computing contract. Both of these events greatly limited Google’s quest to catch up to cloud leaders, Amazon and Microsoft.
What was a surprise to experts was the choice to name Kurian. Kurian, former President of Product Development at Oracle, had just left the company after 22 years. According to a Bloomberg report, Kurian and CTO/Executive Chairman, Larry Ellison, clashed on Oracle’s vision for cloud. Many predicted Kurian’s vision would face a cultural challenge at Google. For years, Google prioritized innovation and a consumer-driven/engineering-oriented approach, a far cry from Kurian’s vision of B2B and storage/website hosting.
In his first public appearance in February 2019, Kurian stated his plan. He said that Google would invest even more in sales and tech talent for its cloud business. In addition, he announced that Google would launch Anthos, a platform that allows customers to run applications on-premise, in the Google Cloud, as well as other cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure and AWS. He also said Google would launch its "first integrated open source ecosystem", so customers could use technology from open source specialists, such as DataStax and MongoDB.
Within only one year, Kurian’s new strategy already paid dividends. Google Cloud generated $8.9 billion in revenue in 2019, 50% percent higher than 2018. In addition, Google Cloud-certified partners grew 300%, and partner-sourced revenue grew 195%.
This growth did not stop in the COVID-19 pandemic. As of July 2021, Google Cloud’s revenue had more than doubled. In addition, Google gained market share in infrastructure cloud services, (9% compared to 7% when Kurian took the helm).
Although Google is still not at the level of Amazon or Microsoft, it is certainly on its way largely because of Kurian’s leadership.
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