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Google Cloud Next postmortem: Thomas Kurian wants the right people

Google Cloud Next

Last week’s Google NEXT conference could be dubbed CEO Thomas Kurian’s coming out party. With the first major changing of the guard at the CEO suite, the baton has passed from Diane Greene, whose contribution could be summarized as the enterprise whisperer – the one who had the ear of CEOs and CFOs who taught the Google Cloud organization about concerns of the enterprise.

Now it’s time for the next step: build the right organization. Barely three months ago, the baton passed to Kurian. With his track record at Oracle, he knows what it takes to build an enterprise computing business, and he has carefully prepared bulleted points for doing so.

At the top of Kurian’s list is having the right people in place. The Google NoOps approach that distinguishes its technology infrastructure may be great for automating what it takes to deploy and run cloud services such as a database, application hub, or machine learning service, but when it comes to entering long-term agreements with enterprise, you need empathetic, thinking, and knowledgeable human minds. The flipside of the challenge is evolving an engineering-driven organization into a business-driven one. Some, like Microsoft and Oracle, have made the leap; others, like Sun, did not and wound up relegated to the dustbins of history.

The same applies to enumerating the terms of engagement and delivering the front-line support. While Google has been best known for the exciting stuff, like innovations such as TensorFlow or Kubernetes, making the transition from technology innovator to reliable business partner requires a lot more mundane blocking and tackling. And so, among Kurian’s year one goal is bulking up enterprise go to market and front-line support, not by some double-digit percentage, but by geometric scale. Finding the right people doesn’t come overnight. Another goal is hammering out contracts designed for CFOs and corporate legal departments, as opposed to DevOps engineers. And by the way, GCP must pull off each of these fetes while avoiding distracting itself from the continued tasks of filling out its portfolio and cultivating partnerships.

Partnerships are key to Google boosting its penetration of the enterprise cloud market from the few percentage points to the double digits to make it a credible competitor for AWS and Azure. A thriving partner ecosystem will be key to Kurian’s goals for growing GCP’s solutions business, that is still at the early stages for horizontal offerings, to going vertical.

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