Thomas Kurian brings a stepped up customer focus to Google Cloud

At the Google Cloud Next conference in San Francisco, the newly minted Cloud chief showcases new major customers joining Google in the next chapter of cloud computing
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

As cloud computing enters a new, multi-cloud era, Google Cloud intends to be "the best strategic partner" for organizations modernizing their IT, Google's new cloud chief Thomas Kurian said Tuesday.

The remarks, delivered as part of the keynote address at the Google Cloud Next conference in San Francisco, marked Kurian's first major outing since since taking the reins of Google Cloud from former CEO Diane Greene in January. Sharing the stage with several major, new enterprise customers, Kurian made clear he's bringing a stepped up focus on customers to Google Cloud.

Google, Kurian said, wants "to be the easiest cloud provider to do business with."

During her three-year tenure as Google Cloud CEO, Greene consolidated Google's enterprise efforts under the Google Cloud brand. Now, the Google Cloud Platform is one of the fastest-growing businesses across Alphabet, Google's parent company. Google has touted the upward momentum of its cloud business, noting for instance, that in 2018 Google doubled the number of GCP contracts greater than $1 million.

Still, Google's cloud business is largely overshadowed in the marketplace by Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Google has already developed a strong reputation for its technical expertise, but it has suffered from a relative lack of experience in the enterprise space. To step up its game, Kurian said, Google has to offer customers technical expertise and make it easier to conduct business.

To that end, Kurian said, Google is massively expanding its go-to-market organization, not just with larger sales teams but technical specialists as well. He promised simplified pricing, easier contracting and "co-innovation frameworks." Google is also broadening its partner reach and introducing a number of enhancements in its partner program. At Next, Google is also showcasing new tools for application developers, as well as tools that enable multi-cloud application deployments.

Kurian also highlighted Google's promise to help enterprises run mission-critical workloads like SAP on the cloud.

After 22 years at Oracle, Kurian brings to Google Cloud a keen understanding of customer relations. In his first 10 weeks on the job at Google, Kurian has already met with hundreds of customers and partners, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said at the start of Tuesday's keynote.

"His personal productivity is testing the limits of G Suite and Calendar," Pichai joked.

The Google Next conference features more than 400 customers there to talk about how they have used Google Cloud to change their business. Some of the customers who joined Kurian on stage on Tuesday include Philips, Kohl's, Chase Consumer Bank and Colgate-Palmolive.

With its announcements at Next, Gens said, Google is advancing "a movement to bring the cloud -- including all of the amazing innovations in the public cloud - anywhere enterprises need them to be,"  Frank Gens, SVP and chief analyst for IDC, said in an email to ZDNet. That includes enterprise data centers, distributed facilities like retail stores, factories, and branch offices and at an expanding number of edge locations.

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