If the cloud chiefs at Amazon and Microsoft thought that they only had each other to watch out for, they best think again.

And no, we’re not suggesting that they turn their heads to see what SAP’s platform solutions president Steve Lucas is up to, what IBM CEO Ginni Rommety has up her SoftLayer sleeve, or what Oracle’s CTO Larry Ellison is plotting on his Hawaiian island.

All eyes should be on Google and its new employee, VMware co-founder and former CEO Diane B. Greene. Late yesterday Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that Greene would be heading up the company’s cloud business, which includes Google for Work, Cloud Platform and Google Apps.

“This new business will bring together product, engineering, marketing and sales and allow us to operate in a much more integrated, coordinated fashion,” wrote Pichai in a blog post announcing the appointment.

And while owning (which Google does) and orchestrating all of the right parts is important, so is having the right leader to set the strategy and make the right pitch to cloud-wary CEOs.

And the fact that she’s a smart, talented, extremely qualified woman is all the better, pointed out Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller in a conversation.

The Right Woman for the Job

Greene not only co-founded VMware, but also led the virtualization giant for a decade. She sold both the geeks in IT and their bosses in the boardrooms on a new way of computing, and there’s no reason to believe she can’t do it again.

“There is no better person to lead this important area,” wrote Pichai, adding that Greene will continue to serve on Google’s Board of Directors, as she has for the past three years.

The fact that she has an established, respectful relationship with Google’s management team might be part of what drew her to the job. Pichai is nothing like Greene’s old boss, EMC Chairman and CEO Joe Tucci who fired her from VMware seven years ago. And what a mistake that was — VMware’s stock price immediately tumbled 25 percent.

Bring on the Partners

Greene probably won’t have any trouble bringing tech partners to Google’s Enterprise Cloud business either. According to the notes posted of a lecture at Stanford University Greene gave this fall, she said her rules of engagement at VMware, looked like this:

Learning Opportunities

“We told all of our partners:

  • We would treat them all the same
  • We promised not to tell other accounts people signed up (a.k.a. if a VMware sales person worked with an HP and a Dell customer—they wouldn’t share info about the sale across companies)
  • If a partner developed something proprietary on top of VMware—we would keep it proprietary
  • If VMware developed something new, they would share it with all partners
  • If anyone in VMware violated these rules, they were fired (this happened). Our partners argued with us but in the end they liked this arrangement because they could trust us”

Developer Tools in Hand

Google also acquired Greene’s latest startup bebop. Though it’s in stealth mode, Pichai blew its cover when he announced the acquisition:

“It’s a new development platform that makes it easy to build and maintain enterprise applications. We think this will help many more businesses find great applications, and reap the benefits of cloud computing. bebop and its stellar team will help us provide integrated cloud products at every level: end-user platforms like Android and Chromebooks, infrastructure and services in Google Cloud Platform, developer frameworks for mobile and enterprise users, and end-user applications like Gmail and Docs."

Ready to Go, Just in Time

With all of the buzz around the cloud, you’d think that a good many enterprises would have already made the move, but the reality is that it’s still a greenfield. While Amazon and Microsoft lead the race for now, there remains a great deal of distance to go.

Few have questioned whether Google has the right stuff (Pichai wrote that it has significantly larger data center capacity than any other public cloud provider) to be a cloud leader, instead the uncertainty hinged on whether it wants to be in the cloud business. 

Greene’s challenge is to change that.