Mild mannered and soft spoken. Opinionated and candid. Oracle’s oracle. Google’s visionary. Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian is a man of many accomplishments, but few more significant than pitting Google Cloud in the bullring against Azure and AWS — and coming out on top.
Google Cloud is currently the fastest growing cloud services vendor on the planet. Just this quarter, they tucked away a staggering 54% uptick in revenue. In fact, so fast and consistent have its increases in revenue been that it has become the industry’s first player to trigger a phase of hypergrowth — and stay in it.
But how are Kurian and co pulling it off?
Peeking behind the skyrocketing figures, one spies a well-oiled engine powered by brilliant people, molecular dollar planning, and empathetic tech.
The Google Cloud unit has always been home to breathtaking technology. Before Kurian, it was largely run by engineers and skewed more towards R&D. This left it in the lurch when it came to solving real people’s practical problems.
Their systems were a mismatch, their apps clunky, and their databases labyrinthine. Everything about it was a turn-off for the regular small business owner. If the cloud business were a party, Google Cloud rushed to fill in the shoes of the stereotypical genius but socially awkward guest.
But Kurian’s unrelenting focus on customer empathy pushed it to pivot. Time and again, Google Cloud has hammered home the importance of meeting customers where they are and solving for imperfect situations; the system adapts to the human and not the other way round.
If Alphabet’s CFO Ruth Porat sounded (almost) gleeful in 2021’s first earnings call, Google Cloud’s mammoth balance sheet item could have been a reason. For a division that barely commanded a mention in previous earnings calls or press releases, this is impressive in every sense of the word.
For instance, in the two years since Thomas Kurian took over (in November 2018), Google Cloud’s revenues surged by 124% and operating losses only by a mere 29% — which Porat says is evidence of the Google Cloud platform building itself before hunting for business.
As CEO of Google Cloud, Kurian has invested heavily in improving go-to-market infrastructure, product development, and engineering prowess — combining Google’s unreal computing might with an unwavering focus on meeting users where they are.
This is where the tech comes in. Google’s slick, blazing quick, stupid easy, and monstrously powerful cloud computing tech.
IaaS. PaaS. SaaS.
Translation: Infrastructure as a Service. Platform as a Service. Software as a Service.
These are the traditional services the Azures and AWSes of the industry sell. But Kurian calls Google Cloud’s offerings distributed IaaS, a digital transformation platform, and industry-specific digital transformation solutions.
And just like that, he humanized Google Cloud, making it instantly more approachable for business owners — big and small —the world over. This, coupled with an incessant focus on selling solutions specific to lines of business, has made Google’s platter of cloud kebabs a potent serving.
Consider the case of the Macy’s Miracle.
The Macy’s miracle
Macy’s, one of the largest department store chains in the world, wanted to move to a digital-era supply chain powered by ML and AI. But they were stuck fielding traditional apps with zero smarts and burdened by rigid rules.
Every major cloud vendor Macy’s approached recommended the traditional (and massive, expensive, time-consuming) ERP overhaul — which has almost become the standard industry prescription for any digital workflow troubles.
But Google Cloud was able to offer something the market had never seen before. Their solution let Macy’s keep the existing supply-chain apps but still extract data from it using Google’s industry-leading ML, AI, and analytics capabilities.
Just between June and August in 2019, Google Cloud upgraded one of Macy’s largest distribution centers — making it a lot smarter without forcing them to shift from the apps they were already using. Apart from delivering extremely high value to Macy’s, it also helped them optimize a big cost-item.
But to understand Google Cloud’s approach better, let us also consider their unique partnership with SAP — the world’s largest maker of enterprise apps.
A Blossoming Friendship: Google Cloud and SAP
Google caught Microsoft napping when it rushed in and stole the top spot as SAP’s #1 Cloud Partner. So forceful was Google Cloud’s commitment to adapting to the system (and never the other way round) that they built an entire data center in Frankfurt just for SAP apps.
This, as reported by Google Cloud’s MD for SAP Snehanshu Shah, has reduced the staff’s migration time to SAP by 65%! Under Kurian, Google Cloud is leveraging the parent’s company’s gargantuan capacity to provide infinitely scalable value to their customers.
Which brings us to:
The value of Google Cloud’s tech
The mainstay of most major cloud players today lies in enterprise apps for CRM, ERP, and HCM. But Google Cloud has zero intentions of building any.
Instead, it looks to combine cloud computing with enormous AI and ML capabilities to integrate with traditional line-of-business apps. This will help Google Cloud extract meaningful data and use advanced analytics to optimize for industry-specific outcomes.
In reality, this translates to something we call egoless solutioneering. Google Cloud isn’t insisting on ownership over every aspect of the ecosystem. It doesn’t coerce you into using their apps alone. By staying nimble and agile (in the true sense of the word), Google Cloud can work with any line-of-business app — however niche or archaic — to help you extract intelligent information for real-time use.
Despite a revenue base that is 5 times smaller than Microsoft’s and 3 times smaller than Amazon’s, Google Cloud manages to stand out. Its shunning of the business’s services aspect and all-in focus on software and solutions makes it a bold yet bankable player.
Thomas Kurian’s massive experience with Oracle and unflinching clarity of vision is a huge separator from the crowd, too. It has humanized the company and brought it closer than ever to its customers during the pandemic.
Just a few years ago, Google Cloud was tottering on the edge of irrelevance — one misstep and it would have landed with both feet in Dodo Land. A relentless focus on upping the game with land-and-expand dynamics has made Google Cloud a nirvana for enterprise technologists.
And if Thomas Kurian has his way, the nirvana for cloud customers isn’t too far away either.
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