Last November, Urs Hölzle, Google's senior vice president for technical infrastructure, suggested that the company's cloud revenue could surpass its advertising revenue in five years. Considering that Google's parent Alphabet is the largest company in the world thanks almost entirely to search ad dollars and Google's cloud remains far behind Amazon's, Hölzle's prediction seemed optimistic at best.
Hölzle, as it turns out, was instrumental in recruiting Diane Greene as senior vice president of enterprise business at Google late last year. The general reaction to that hire has largely been: Well, if anyone can grow Google's enterprise cloud business exponentially, Diane Greene can.
As founder and CEO of VMware, Greene was chiefly responsible for one of the most stunning triumphs ever in enterprise tech: the rapid adoption of server virtualization. In the early 2000s, enterprises embraced new technology at a glacial pace, but VMware was able to shortcut that cycle and establish a new foundational layer for the data center in record time.
Yet the challenges of attracting enterprises to the public cloud are more formidable -- by Greene's own estimate, enterprise workloads account for only 5 to 10 percent of current public cloud usage. In an interview with Greene last week at Google I/O, I asked her how she planned to grow Google's enterprise cloud business and what unique offerings would differentiate Google Cloud from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and the rest. The following is an edited version of the interview.
InfoWorld: At VMware you were incredibly effective at getting enterprises to adopt a brand-new technology: server virtualization. How were you able to do that with something so fundamental to enterprise infrastructure in such a short time?
Greene: And running their mission-critical workloads.
Greene: Basically, I always say it was a nondisruptive disruptive technology, so some of the things we did at VMware involved building tools to facilitate it. We had a tool, a P-to-V tool, that would suck a physical machine into our virtual machine that would just run. And we had a tool that would go out on the network, look for all your workloads, see how much the machine was utilized to identify good candidate workloads, and let people see what the cost savings would be. It was those tools -- and I think it was really getting to the system administrators very early through the desktop and getting them comfortable with it.
InfoWorld: What were the lessons you learned from that success?
Greene: In terms of lessons, it's how easy is it for someone to move. You have to have the advantages, but you also have to make it easy. And then: What are the early adoption areas, where the right evangelist will get very comfortable and want to bring the rest on board? All those kinds of things.
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