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Google Cloud CEO Kurian conducts enterprise-savvy concert at Google Next

SAN FRANCISCO – In his biggest spotlight to date as Google Cloud CEO, Thomas Kurian played emcee rather than the star attraction.

Kurian, who recently took the helm from Diane Greene after a lengthy career at Oracle, mostly ceded the Tuesday keynote here at the Google Cloud Next show to a parade of Google executives, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai who opened the keynote, as well as partners and customers.

That restraint suggested he did not carry over one tradition from Oracle: bombastic competition-trashing, made famous by his former boss, Oracle co-founder and CTO Larry Ellison.

In fact, Kurian didn’t mention any competitors at all, except in the context of partnerships and Google’s efforts to provide third-party software on its cloud.

Instead, the Google Cloud CEO quickly described a broad vision for the company’s future — vertical industries and a bigger partner ecosystem are two key planks — as well as steps it has already taken to serve customers more effectively.

Google Cloud will continue to expand its go-to-market efforts, not just with more salespeople but also technical staff, Kurian said. Enterprise contract frameworks, simplified pricing and other means to make doing business with the cloud provider easier are on tap as well, the Google Cloud CEO said, albeit without including many specifics.

That’s the kind of message — and overall delivery — that resonates with large enterprises as they consider their cloud strategies and technology options, including Google Cloud.

Arguably, Kurian took a few cues from his old Oracle playbook, with respect to an emphasis on verticals, for example. Oracle spent billions to acquire a slew of industry-specific application vendors over the past 10 to 15 years and moved them into its sprawling Global Business Unit corporate structure. The acquisition roll-up method is credited for Oracle’s steady gains in application revenue against the likes of SAP.

But again, the big difference with Google’s vertical strategy under Kurian hews to the company’s broader goal for enterprise cloud computing: To serve as a technology provider from the infrastructure, PaaS and SaaS layers that can help customers improve their operations where they stand today.

“Google has changed from AI and ML being the main mousetrap to having multiple value propositions for the enterprise,” said Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif.

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