Why Google Cloud’s new boss will fail like the old boss

The Google culture doesn’t care about enterprise, and replacing one seasoned enterprise exec with another won’t change that fact

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For years, Google Cloud Platform has built more geewizardy-type services than anyone else, leading the other cloud providers in things like AI. It has also done the best job of building impressive open source communities like Kubernetes and TensorFlow. And yet Google Cloud Platform remains a distant third in the public cloud computing contest, with the usual reason cited being: Google doesn’t “get” enterprise.

This, despite hiring a bevy of enterprise folks throughout its sales and marketing. And despite hiring VMware cofounder Diane Greene to shepherd the company into a more glorious enterprise future that has yet to come. Now Greene is out and an even stodgier enterprise person, Oracle’s Thomas Kurian, is on tap to save Google’s cloudy soul. Will it work?

Googlers don’t care about the enterprise

If what Google was lacking was enterprise DNA at the top, it’s hard to see how swapping Greene for Kurian helps. Yes, it’s now fashionable to deride Greene as “rather old-school,” someone who “struggled to understand how employees at [Google] operate.” This, however, was exactly why she was hired: not to become more like Google, but rather in the hope that Google would become more like her.

In many ways, Google has. Greene has hired more people for the Google Cloud group in the last two years than any other division in Google’s parent Alphabet. Many of those hires come from the staid world of enterprise computing. Indeed, browse through Google Cloud employees on LinkedIn and you’ll see enterprise plastered all over their pedigrees: Red Hat, Cisco, IBM, SAP, VMware, you name it. If the company is big, boring, and profitable, current Google Cloud employees have likely worked there.

But by other measures, efforts to make Google more enterprise-friendly have failed, largely because the bulk of its employee base simply doesn’t care about the enterprise. Google remains very engineer-driven, more likely to tell customers why they’re wrong to prefer a particular approach to a business problem than to listen to the customers and try to solve it for them. For example, when Greene wanted to sell to the US military, Googlers protested. When Amazon chief Jeff Bezos said tech companies can’t “turn their backs on the US Department of Defense … [or] this country is going to be in trouble,” his employees got in line.

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