Three eventful years after veteran tech executive and longtime Google board member Diane Greene was brought in to run the company’s cloud business, she announced plans to step down from that post Friday.
Greene will be replaced by Thomas Kurian, who ran Oracle’s cloud efforts until earlier this year when he left that company after reportedly clashing with mercurial co-founder and CTO Larry Ellison. She’ll stay with Google through the end of January, and Kurian will start at Google following the Thanksgiving break.
“When I joined Google full-time to run Cloud in December 2015, I told my family and friends that it would be for two years. Now, after an unbelievably stimulating and productive three years, it’s time to turn to the passions I’ve long had around mentoring and education,” Greene wrote in a blog post.
Google’s cloud business remains well behind market leader Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, according to market share reports, but has picked up some major customers and the company has been investing billions in its computing infrastructure, signaling that it will be around for a while. Google’s cloud efforts have never lacked technological prowess, but for a long time cloud buyers found the famously engineering-driven company difficult to work with.
That led to Greene’s appointment in 2015, given her experience selling technology to large corporations. Greene rose to prominence after co-founding and leading VMware, which invented the virtual machine that is the backbone of every major public cloud service.
“We have moved Google Cloud from having only two significant customers and a collection of startups to having major Fortune 1000 enterprises betting their future on Google Cloud, something we should accept as a great compliment as well as a huge responsibility,” Greene wrote in the post.
But in some ways, 2018 was a rough year for Greene and Google Cloud. Greene was at the center of an employee uprising over Google Cloud’s artificial intelligence work with the Department of Defense, which forced it to drop its bid for the $10 billion JEDI cloud computing contract under consideration by the Pentagon.
She became a member of Google’s board of directors in 2012, and she will return to Google parent company Alphabet’s board of directors after officially leaving the company. She expanded a bit on her plans for mentoring in her blog post, emphasizing the need to support women founders and engineers.
“I want to encourage every woman engineer and scientist to think in terms of building their own company someday. The world will be a better place with more female founder CEOs. The work in education will especially be initiatives that combine technology with in-person teaching to make high-quality education that is low-cost, scalable and personalized,” she wrote.
[Editor’s note: This post was updated several times as more information became available.]