was a distant third to AWS and Microsoft Azure when
made the surprise move from Oracle to lead Google’s cloud business in 2018. The Bengaluru boy revitalised the business – in the June quarter, Google Cloud posted a second consecutive profitable quarter. But now, with Microsoft taking the lead in generative AI, Kurian and his boss,
, have a new challenge. Kurian, who is currently on his first visit to India as Google Cloud CEO, spoke about the transformative power of gen AI. Excerpts:
Do you see gen AI as a defining moment in tech?
There’s no question – it is a defining moment. The capabilities of these models and what they’re able to do have astonished users in many countries. It’s really a very transformative experience of what a model can do. We are being bold and responsible, meaning we’re making substantial forward-looking product investments. But there’s no question to us that this is a seminal moment in computing.
Google and Microsoft are in a battle for AI supremacy. What advantage does Google Cloud bring?
As part of Google Cloud, there are three primary things people want from gen AI – infrastructure for people who want to build their own models, a platform to develop applications, and third, a set of capabilities for people who want to use gen AI. Our performance and efficiency is twice as much (as competitors), which essentially means you get double the value for the same amount of spend. The proof of it is – 50% of every AI-funded startup is a customer of Google Cloud, and 70% of every AI unicorn is a customer of our cloud.
With gen AI, there’s a rise of AI pair programming (systems generating code). There are worries this could lead to big job losses.
What we have seen is that the AI pair programmers, what we call Duet, are being used to do things that software engineers don’t like to do. As an example, software engineers don’t like to write documentation, and the AI model can generate it. Our AI models are being used for code review, too. For instance, I’m a software engineer who has written a piece of code. But before I’m allowed to submit it, I need to have it reviewed by an expert. That could be a bottleneck if I have to wait in line to get somebody else to review it. Now, however, the model can do it. Lastly, Duet is also being used for migrating an old piece of code – it may have been written in Cobol and I may not have anybody who understands that anymore, so I’d want to migrate it to a modern language like
. In such a case, we can automatically convert it. And so, none of these necessarily mean that we are replacing programmers with the model, but only that we are helping them go faster.
With gen AI, is there FOMO among customers?
We are seeing a lot of interest from customers across a whole range of industries. If you look at banking, people are using it for a variety of reasons. It improves the speed of customer service, improves cost efficiency and overall service.