Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian Makes His Move

Thomas Kurian is making his market-share takeover move as Google Cloud looks to ‘industrialize’ the cybersecurity industry, create the world’s most open cloud marketplace and completely eradicate channel conflict.


Thomas Kurian is ready to make his move. After spending the past three years putting his plan into motion and more than tripling sales as Google Cloud’s CEO, Kurian is positioning the company to leapfrog the competition.

From increasing Google Cloud’s head count by upward of 15,000 employees and consistently growing sales by billions of dollars year after year to opening the Google Cloud Marketplace to channel partners, Kurian isn’t just making Google Cloud a more formidable player against its cloud rivals—he’s looking to take the industry by storm through a highly differentiated partner-led strategy.

“What Thomas Kurian has done for Google Cloud cannot be overstated. He has completely legitimized the platform in the hearts, minds and eyes of the largest organizations in the world,” said Tony Safoian, CEO of Los Angeles-based SADA Systems, one of Google Cloud’s top channel partners. “He’s not afraid to make hard decisions. He’s not afraid to change his mind or strategy, to make decisions given new information. He’s one of the few leaders I know who can talk from the 100,000-foot view and moonshot ideas and explain a YAML file.”

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In a blockbuster move that sent shockwaves through the industry, Kurian left Oracle after a successful 22-year career to become CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Cloud in late 2018. And his results speak for themselves.

When Kurian first arrived, Google Cloud was generating $5.8 billion in annual sales as of 2018. Google Cloud now generates that much in a quarter, reporting $5.8 billion in first-quarter 2022 sales, representing a 220 percent increase compared with $1.8 billion in sales for the first quarter of 2019 when Kurian initially took over the CEO reins.

Under Kurian’s leadership, Google Cloud has blossomed from a renowned data analytics cloud specialist into a premier enterprise cloud platform that operates with the same speed and agility as a startup, said Nidhi Srivastava, vice president and global head of the Google Cloud business for $25.7 billion India-based solution provider Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

“Thomas has made a huge, huge impact. It’s a scorching pace at which Google Cloud has been growing in the marketplace, and we’re now seeing a lot of wins where Google Cloud is the primary cloud, or is the cloud, in the enterprise,” said Srivastava. “It’s a big company now, but they have retained the agility and the speed which you would see from a young firm. Their speed of decision-making is something Thomas has brought. ...He’s been tapping into the power of the partner ecosystem to drive Google Cloud growth and adoption across the enterprise landscape. He’s definitely made Google Cloud a very partner-friendly company.”

Google Cloud’s annual sales skyrocketed to over $19 billion in 2021, with no signs of slowing down. In fact, Google Cloud’s 44 percent year-over-year growth rate in the first quarter of 2022 outpaced parent company Alphabet’s 23 percent sales growth.

As Kurian himself put it, “If you look at our position relative to where we were just three and a half years ago when I took over the business, it’s night and day.

“I mean, we are way bigger now than we were,” Kurian said in an April interview with CRN for the 2022 Best of Breed Virtual event hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company. “We are seeing really unprecedented demand from customers, and our partners are critical to meeting this demand.”

Kurian is hiring thousands of net-new employees each year, launching new cloud innovation at a blistering pace, and elevating Google Cloud’s channel ecosystem unlike ever before.

But this is just the beginning.

Kurian is now ready to push Google Cloud front and center into the multi-cloud era with plans to win more cloud computing market share in the coming years through several strategic moves—from revolutionizing the Google Cloud Marketplace to making cybersecurity a true market differentiator against its cloud rivals to eliminating channel conflict.

Kurian’s Bullish Plan To ‘Industrialize’ Cybersecurity

Google Cloud is shaking up the complex security landscape and addressing the fear every organization faces today.

“What we are trying to do is take cybersecurity and industrialize it so that people don’t have to always live with this worry, ‘Is tomorrow the day I get told that my systems have been breached?’” said Kurian.

With billions of people around the world using its parent company’s large-scale consumer services platforms like Google Search and Google Maps, Google arguably has the largest attack surface on the planet, Kurian said.

“You would probably notice they have never been brought down, and you’re able to access them all the time,” Kurian pointed out. “It’s because of a lot of the security tools and operational solutions that we have built over the years to protect our own services. Now we’re making those solutions available to our cloud customers.”

Some examples of differentiated cloud security innovation driving customer wins include its zero-trust enterprise platform BeyondCorp, the company’s large portfolio of data protection solutions, and Google Cloud’s open strategy of allowing customers to not only protect workloads that run in Google Cloud, but also in their own enterprise—thanks to Kurian forming partnerships with cybersecurity heavyweights Palo Alto Networks and CrowdStrike, to name a few.

“As a result, you can look publicly at the threat data and the reports on breaches [and see that] we have a very secure cloud approach that we are confident in,” said Kurian. “We offer cyber insurance, so a customer can buy cyber insurance when they run workloads on a cloud and get great rates because they’re running on a secure infrastructure. ”Furthermore, Google Cloud’s move to win cloud mindshare via its security technology is getting a major shot in the arm with Google’s upcoming blockbuster acquisition of incident response superstar Mandiant.

Why Mandiant Is A Game-Changer

In one of the largest acquisitions in Google’s history, the company has signed an agreement to acquire Mandiant for $5.4 billion, a deal expected to close later this year.

The acquisition will bring Google Cloud real-time, in-depth threat intelligence technology and expertise that Mandiant has built from working with the largest organizations in the world on the frontlines of cybersecurity.

Mandiant generated $483 million in revenue in 2021, up 21 percent year over year, with the company projecting sales upward of $565 million for 2022.

Specifically, Kurian told CRN that Mandiant will bring several key capabilities to Google, including vulnerability assessment and world-renowned consulting expertise around identifying threats and understanding the threat vector. Kurian plans to integrate Mandiant’s technology into Google Cloud products such as its Chronicle cloud-native SIEM platform for better risk and vulnerability analysis, as well as newly acquired automation remediation technology from Siemplify, which Google Cloud purchased this year for a reported $500 million.

“Kurian is looking to make security the next big differentia-tor for Google Cloud, which is where the Mandiant acquisition falls in place,” said TCS’ Srivastava. “It makes a ton of sense for both Google Cloud and partners because Mandiant brings a platform that looks across the entire security life cycle. It just doesn’t look at threat detection, it looks at response, it looks at recovery, it looks at automation, it looks at managed defense and, with that, come very strong advisory services. Looking at the big crunch for talent today and the speed at which cloud journeys are being driven across the enterprise landscape, it brings a ton of complementary capabilities for Google Cloud to make security a big differentiator.”

Kurian plans to arm its tens of thousands of channel partners with offerings to make cybersecurity a major differentiator for them in the sales field.

“We are not a managed security services company. We wantpartners to build that capability on top with us,” Kurian said.

Channel partners said Google Cloud’s security push is coming at the ideal time as businesses of all shapes and sizes are flocking to the cloud, in part due to the global COVID-19 pandemic accelerating digital transformation plans.

SADA’s Safoian said Google Cloud is in a unique position to truly become the company that industrializes the security market, so much so that SADA this year announced a new goal to drive its customers to consume $2.5 billion worth of Google Cloud solutions over the next three years.

“Google is trying to make it so a customer doesn’t have to have the best security experts on the planet to create the most secure infrastructure and strategy. The way you do it is you industrialize make it repeatable, make it easy to buy, make it easy to configure, and get the best possible advice while you’re doing it so that every customer can benefit from Google-Cloud-plus-Mandiant security expertise to be able to deploy the most secure posture imaginable and leverage those benefits without necessarily having the best security folks in-house,” said Safoian. “In the current era, with geopolitical issues and other things, that is a real threat. I’m really excited to see Google play an even bigger role securing large parts of public sector and commercial entities from all the threats that are probably only going to get more sophisticated over time.”

Google Cloud Marketplace 2.0

As part of its objective to create the best end-to-end security offering in the industry and continue to take sales to new heights, Google Cloud is revamping the Google Cloud Marketplace, allowing channel partners to resell independent software vendor (ISV) solutions on the marketplace.

For the first time, Google Cloud is opening the marketplace for partners to resell ISV’s products with the goal of creating the most open cloud marketplace in the world. Customers can continue to use their Google Cloud spending commitment on channel partner and ISV solutions.

“We are completely open on the Google Cloud Marketplace, whether the solution is complementary or whether it’s even overlapping with Google products because we fundamentally want to provide customer choice,” said Kevin Ichhpurani, Google Cloud’s global channel chief. “We believe open platforms are the ones that win in the market.”

Sergio Cipolla, CEO of Denver-based Google Cloud partner NIMBL, said opening up the marketplace to the channel is “instrumental” in showing Google Cloud customers how “flexible and customizable” the platform can be in addressing every type of business need.

“It’s exciting that customers can pick the best solution for them, rather than what’s simply available from the current inventory of services,” he said. “This provides a great opportunity for NIMBLto showcase several of our solutions as prepackaged offerings that are available to companies.”

The ability for customers to use their cloud commitment spend on channel partner and ISV solutions, such as offerings from MongoDB and Splunk to Palo Alto Networks and Databricks, comes during a massive shift in customer buying trends, Ichhpurani said.

“More and more customers want to procure ISV solutions via the marketplace. The reason is they get a friction-free buying experience. It’s one integrated bill. You can have integrated identity access management, etc.—you basically removed the buying friction of the model,” said Ichhpurani, corporate vice president of global partner ecosystem and channels at Google Cloud. “When a customer now buys [ISV or partner] solutions, they can burndown their Google commitment, dollar for dollar, just like it’s a Google product. That’s really compelling.

The new way of procuring end-to-end solutions via the Google Cloud Marketplace is helping accelerate customer stickiness for the roughly $20 billion cloud giant. The number of customers who are spending more than $1 million through the Google Cloud Marketplace exploded in 2021, growing more than 500 percent compared with 2020.

The plan to continue growing the Google Cloud Marketplace is to make it the most open cloud marketplace in the industry, regardless of whether solutions listed on the marketplace are competitive or complementary to Google Cloud, according to Ichhpurani.

“We are embracing ‘co-opetition,’” Ichhpurani said. “You can run in Google Cloud, you can run on-premises or in another cloud. Our partners feel that the future of the world is multi-cloud, and so do we.”

Partners To Double Down On The Marketplace

Google Cloud partners are bullish that placing their services and solutions on the open Google Cloud Marketplace will increase sales and create new customer opportunities.

Many partners have said they expect a sizable portion of their overall Google Cloud sales to come via the marketplace in the years ahead.

“It brings tremendous ease of procurement for the end customer. It just makes it more composable and more modular in terms of how customers buy from us,” said TCS’ Srivastava. “So that’s where we, as a partner, see that entire opportunity of moving our products and [intellectual property] to the marketplace and allowing our end customers to be able to use some of their Google [spending] commitment for procuring services using a SaaS model.”

Srivastava predicts that about 10 percent to 20 percent of TCS’ total Google Cloud sales will come via the Google Cloud Marketplace in the near term, “but we see it going much higher over time.”

Kurian aims to scale channel partners in the marketplace by teaming them up alongside Google Cloud’s own sales force.

“We made it very easy for partners to collaborate with the Google sales force so that they can serve clients together. There are a lot of things we’ve done with our sales organization to make sure that partners are seen as really complementary to us,” he said. “We believe [the marketplace] is a great opportunity for partners who want to access our customer base, who want to bring their solutions to customers, who want to be much [more] reach-able—we’re literally bringing them right into the hands of the customer,” said Kurian. “The more we make it easy for customers to do it, the more the partners benefit.”‘

Huge Opportunity’ With 100 Percent Partner Attach Commitment

Google Cloud currently has a multibillion-dollar backlog, meaning there is a significant amount of money on the table for partners to capture.

“Our backlog of signed, non-cancellable contracts is $50 billion-plus. So that’s a very large number. And all those contracts that have been booked also bring partners in because partners need to drive the commitment that a customer has given us in that contract backlog,” said Kurian. “So there’s a huge, huge opportunity for partners. ... Our goal is to make sure that we make it super easy for partners to be able to reach our customers.”

In a bold move, Kurian has made the commitment to “attach partners to 100 percent” of all Google Cloud customer engagements.

The cloud provider is attaching partners to accounts regardless of whether the partner plays a role in discovering the customer, driving the deal or closing the customer win. Effectively, Kurian said he’s created an ecosystem where there is zero channel conflict.

“When I joined, I was very clear that we are a products and solutions company, we’re not a services company. So there is zero channel conflict—zero channel conflict,” Kurian said. That makes it much easier for partners to know that when they go in with Google Cloud, the company will not try to bring its own services and compete with them, he said.

Partners have been reaping the benefits of Google Cloud’s partner-driven go-to-market model with Kurian at the helm. Solution providers are rarely ever alone in the sales trenches without Google Cloud’s sales force providing help.

For example, SADA and Google Cloud worked together to enable technology banking specialist Tassat Group to create a revolutionary blockchain-based payment platform for the banking industry and B2B customers.

Google Cloud and SADA won the large deal together to pro-vide Tassat with a hosted platform that allowed the company toscale and spin up new servers and enable geographic proximity so services could run in multiple regions, with SADA working on Tassat’s technology backlog and building out enhancements for Google Cloud implementations.

“We are almost never in a pursuit or engagement alone. We are always co-selling with Google,” said SADA’s Safoian. “It’s extremely collaborative in almost every engagement. It’s not just day one in that pursuit, but year one, year two, the renewal, the new commit, the expansion—whatever it is, we’re at the hip with Google in the field every single day.”

Google Cloud’s channel chief said the company’s partner-driven sales model isn’t going away.

“We’ve taken a completely partner-led approach to delivery. We are not building up or scaling our services organization internally,” said Ichhpurani. “We want the partners to take the lead; we want to be the co-pilot.”

Paving The Way For Massive Growth Ahead

Partners applaud Google’s decision to hire an outsider in Kurian, who was able to position the company as a new global cloud contender in just a few short years.

Google Cloud currently accounts for approximately 10 per-cent of the worldwide cloud infrastructure services market, according to data from IT research firm Synergy Research Group, trailing Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, which have 33 percent and 22 percent share, respectively, as of first-quarter 2022.

“Google has made some good moves and is now clearly seen as a serious alternative to AWS or Microsoft Azure,” said John Dinsdale, chief analyst and research director at Synergy. “It continues to invest heavily in its hyperscale data center footprint, and it has an extremely strong pipeline of new data centers that will be brought online in the coming years.”

Data centers power Google Cloud’s infrastructure. The company has strategically been one of the top spenders when it comes to building new data centers in order to keep ahead of ever-growing demand for its services. Google plans to spend $9.5 billion on datacenters and U.S. offices this year, preparing itself for significant cloud growth ahead.

With that growth in mind, partners hail Kurian as one of most important executives that Google Cloud has ever hired.

“His leadership style has made a huge difference to Google,” said TCS’ Srivastava. “They are very, very driven to grow in the marketplace, and I enjoy that energy because we grow together.”

The goal is simple for Kurian.

“Build the customer base. Bring that customer base to the partner ecosystem. Commit to being partner-friendly with a goal to be 100 percent attach. Specialize the partner ecosystem sot they have deep skills in different areas and introduce the partners with our sales organization to customers by eliminating friction of any kind between the partners and customers,” said Kurian. “That’s been a lot of the focus these last three and a half years. We’re starting to see the results of it, and we’re very encouraged with the progress we’re seeing.”