Google's Diane Greene: Here's why enterprises want our cloud

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.

diane greeneBrendan McDermid

VMware co-founder Diane Greene is now heading up Google’s cloud. Job number one: Sell it to enterprises.

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.