Executive appointments happen all the time in the enterprise tech industry, but some have the potential to transform an organization. Oracle veteran Thomas Kurian hired as the next CEO of Google Cloud could be a game-changer for Google’s enterprise appeal.
Kurian, who starts work at Google in January, spent more than 20 years at Oracle and ultimately oversaw all product development. He reportedly left Oracle over a disagreement on the company’s willingness to make more of its products available on rival clouds.
His long tenure is a notable achievement in a corporate culture as cutthroat as Oracle’s. It also gave Kurian a wealth of knowledge about the technological needs and desires of large enterprises.
VMware founder Diane Greene arrived at Google Cloud three years ago with the intent to build up its enterprise business. Under her leadership, Google Cloud picked up high-profile enterprise customers, including Colgate and the New York Times, as well as forged partnerships with enterprise-centric vendors like SAP and Cisco. She also presided over a number of acquisitions, such as Apigee for API management and Bitium for SaaS single sign-on, which laid some groundwork for future enterprise wins and gave clues toward Google’s longer-term plans.
Kurian is well-poised to build on Greene’s accomplishments. He led development for hundreds of products and presided over the company’s move to the cloud at all three layers of the stack: SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. Oracle may lag in market share on the last couple of fronts, but its evolution away from a predominantly on-premises software vendor is undeniable.
Kurian also found ways to form and preserve a team of seasoned lieutenants, such as database chief Andrew Mendelsohn and applications head Steve Miranda, both well over 20-year Oracle vets — another testament to Kurian’s ability to build a stable product development organization at the leadership level. It’s a safe bet that Kurian will recruit former Oracle troops to help build out Google Cloud’s enterprise products and sales organization.
So what Kurian will do at Google? We can make a few safe predictions.
First, Google Cloud has largely been focused on selling plumbing: IaaS and PaaS, with applications in third place. Expect this to change with Kurian in charge.
Kurian likely won’t push hard for organic application development — he probably still has nightmares from Oracle Fusion Applications, an ambitious plan to combine a superset of capabilities from JD Edwards, E-Business Suite, Siebel and PeopleSoft into a next-generation suite. Fusion was unveiled in 2005, but the first apps didn’t become generally available until 2011.
Google needs sticky major-category apps such as ERP, HCM and CRM to make major enterprise inroads, and Kurian knows this, but he won’t want to go through a Fusion-like experience again. Expect Kurian to pursue acquisitions in application software. Potential targets include Plex for ERP, Ultimate Software for HCM, and Pegasystems for CRM and marketing.
Some speculate whether Kurian, steeped in the Oracle tea, will thrive in Google’s culture, but it would be a mistake to count him out. Kurian holds business and computer science degrees from Princeton and Stanford; he can speak both the language of developers and residents of the C-suite. Like any new role, Kurian will face a period of adjustment, but the smart money rides on a successful run for him at Google.