Five Thoughts About Thomas Kurian’s Move to become CEO of Google Cloud Platform
The news broke late on Friday that Thomas Kurian is joining Google to become their new CEO for Google Cloud Platform. Five thoughts on Kurian’s move:
It’s a smart move made by an exceptionally smart guy. Brave, as well, given the recent history between Oracle and Google but also not surprising given his drive and presumably point to prove. I met him a few times as part of Oracle’s ACE Director program and he’s the only software exec I know who can talk long-term strategy and vision one minute and then explain to you in-detail how it all works, and doing it all with great humility and courtesy.
The fact that GCP is spoken-of as an also-ran at 10% market share whilst Oracle Cloud gets bundled in with “Next 10” shows what a mountain Oracle have to climb to even become a contender to compete with Microsoft and Amazon in the cloud business - and their insistence on only allowing their SaaS and PaaS apps to run in Oracle Cloud is a worrying parallel with the “Windows Tax” that Microsoft’s Office and Server products teams had to pay back in the Steve Ballmer Era, but with Oracle’s equivalent to Satya Nadella having lost the argument and jumped-ship
But Oracle will survive and this has happened many times before - Ray Lane, Charles Philips, Tom Seibel, Mark Benioff all left and in many cases founded massively successful and competitive businesses, client-server went to internet architecture and then internet went to cloud, it’s all part of how businesses renew and people move on and up, and there’s plenty more smart (and most likely, smarter) people left in Oracle and Larry Ellison is still just as driven, competitive and on-top of his game.
Look out for a very interesting (as in Brexit, interesting to watch but not to be part of) culture clash at GCP, with TK about the most top-down leader of a product development team I’ve ever seen and Google, famously, engineering-focused beanbag-friendly and bottom-up. Add to that the feelings most Googler’s have towards Oracle and TK will have his work cut-out early on to win the various teams over - my guess is that his work-ethic, technical chops and sheer ability will do just that and if this role is a success, Sergey and Larry may well have found their new Eric Schmidt but this time with technical skills to match theirs - but there’s always the chance that culture will prevail and he’ll be the next Marissa Meyer instead. No pressure there then..
Expect to see GCP moving increasingly into SaaS B2B areas such as ERP, CRM, Financials and industry-vertical applications to complement their commoditised IaaS and PaaS cloud business and leveraging their massive GSuite and increasingly ChromeOS install base. Just think what they could do if they had access to all the world’s structured business transactional data as well as the unstructured search, email and spreadsheet data they have now - even more comprehensive and market-leading search, the world’s biggest and most valuable ML training set, and a business model that could provide these applications for free in exchange for exclusive access to that data and Google being your default search engine. That’s the real existential threat to Oracle; spending all their time trying to win an un-winnable cloud infrastructure war and then GCP coming along and making ERP, CRM and business applications essentially free.