Google Cloud partners say that the company has gotten more flexible since Thomas Kurian took over as CEO.
That flexibility can be seen in how it gives customers wiggle room when it comes to the finer points of their contracts — like allowing them to take credits that were intended for one Google Cloud service, and allowing them to apply them to other services.
The company has also expanded its outreach to partners, including by giving money for sales and marketing to developers who build software that integrates with Google Cloud.
The partners we spoke with say that this reflects Google's increased willingness and ability to compete for bigger customer deals, by doing whatever it takes to keep them happy.
"We have committed to tripling the size of our customer-facing teams, simplifying how our partners and customers work with us, and have launched new resources for our partners," Rob Enslin, president of cloud sales at Google Cloud, said in part in a statement to Business Insider.
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Under the reign of CEO Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud is getting more flexible when it comes to working with customers, resellers, and partners — a factor that it sees as making a big difference in its race to catch up to the dominant Amazon Web Services and second-place Microsoft Azure.
Tony Safoian, president and CEO of prominent Google Cloud partner SADA Systems, says that this push is a reflection of Kurian's long experience at Oracle before he came to the search giant.
Safoian's view is that Kurian believes that to win the long-term business of the biggest customers, it has to do whatever it takes to keep them happy — which means giving some wiggle room in their contracts, offering as many tools as possible, and even giving Google Cloud resellers like SADA expanded tools to help them offer better tech support to their own customers.
"It's rooted in a couple things," Safoian said. "One is the aggressive desire to win, just that Oracle-like hunger to win which hasn't always existed in Google Cloud. What does it take to win? It takes a lot of commercial flexibility, legal language flexibility, execution speed, and bundles into things that aren't like cookie cutters."
Business Insider spoke to several Google Cloud partners and one employee about how Google is trying to establish itself as a more trustworthy partner in the cloud wars than its rivals at Microsoft and Amazon Web Services.
In a statement to Business Insider, Robert Enslin, Google Cloud's president of sales and one of Kurian's major hires, says that "we have committed to tripling the size of our customer-facing teams, simplifying how our partners and customers work with us, and have launched new resources for our partners such as our Partner Advantage program, our ISV/SaaS Center of Excellence, and our resources for Managed Services Providers. We are also committed to our goal of attaching partners to 100% of customer engagements."
Flexibility is a key part of the new Google Cloud push
Safoian says that Google's new approach to flexibility can be seen in how the company allows customers to allocate their usage of the platform.
Large customers negotiate deals with Google Cloud that see them pre-paying for a certain amount of cloud capacity, often at a discount. In doing so, those customers get so-called credits that can be applied to their cloud bills. Of late, Safoian says, Google Cloud has been more amenable to customers taking credits that were intended for, say, the compute platform, and allowing them to apply them to cloud storage or the BigQuery database analysis service.
And on the flip side, Safoian says, Google has gotten more aggressive about bundling its core cloud computing services with other products from across the search giant's portfolio. For example, Google Cloud is now offering customers bundles that package together Google Cloud Platform credits, YouTube ads, and the G Suite productivity software.
Michael Kollar, senior VP and global head of cloud engineering with Google Cloud partner Atos, says that of the three major cloud platforms, the search giant is "the most flexible and adaptive when it comes to working with enterprises" than Amazon or Microsoft. In his view, the bundling strategy differentiates itself from Amazon or Microsoft by allowing Google to offer businesses a set of tools that go beyond just cloud computing.
"Google isn't just focused on moving on a couple of workloads or transforming a couple of apps," Kollar told Business Insider. "They're interested in transforming business outcomes, which is kind of different from AWS and Azure."
A partnership approach to developers building on Google Cloud
Within Google, an employee tells Business Insider that the view has changed, too, with the company pushing to recognize the developers who build on Google Cloud as more equal partners. This employee says that Google Cloud has begun earmarking funds to help those developers with sales and marketing.
"We bring all those flexible benefits and [commitments] that they don't get from AWS, Azure, IBM," the employee, who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to discuss internal company matters, said. "We look to customers as partners to help them to come to Google Cloud and sell their software with us in the marketplace."
Read more: Google Cloud did some 'myth busting' about data privacy and winning large customers this week as it tries to win the war against Amazon and Microsoft, analysts say
And in July, Google Cloud announced new resources for independent software vendors, to help them move their own customers off their own data centers and into the cloud.
Along similar lines, several of the partners we spoke with say that there's more opportunity for these developers on Google Cloud, as the company is now far more open to offering products from independent software vendors into the bundles that it offers customers. That's not a new practice at Google Cloud, but the partners say that it's become more common since Kurian took over.
Google Cloud's flexibility is a reflection of Kurian's Oracle experience — and a need to compete
Google Cloud's new stance of openness comes as the competition only gets more fierce. While, Google Cloud has been growing year-over-year and recently posted a $3 billion quarter, it's still far behind Amazon Web Services and Microsoft when it comes to market share. AWS has 45% of the market, and Microsoft has 17.9%, while Google Cloud only has 5.3%, according to estimates from analyst Gartner.
Kurian and Enslin have set their sights on making Google a more formidable player in the market, and have closed some notable cloud deals in recent memory like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and Verizon. Safoian credits the two executives' enterprise experience with reinvigorating the company's ability and willingness to compete.
"I think that generally has been the trend since Thomas Kurian and Robert Enslin came in," Safoian told Business Insider. "They're bringing elements of the enterprise playbook."
"It was really with the start of Thomas coming in," agrees Tom Galizia, global chief commercial officer at consulting giant Deloitte. He says that with Kurian on board, who took over for former CEO Diane Greene, Google Cloud has become a better partner, and thus more able to compete.
"Not that it didn't happen before, but it was really episodic at best. The first half of last year, you started to see some real movement," Galizia said.
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