Urs Hölzle, Google's eighth employee and overall cloud boss, thinks that within the next five years, the company's Google Cloud Platform revenues could surpass Google's advertising revenue.
"The goal is for us to talk about Google as a cloud company by 2020," Hölzle said on stage at today's Structure conference in San Francisco.
That would represent a huge transformation of Google's business. The internet company generated 89% of its revenue from advertisers in 2014, primarily from the lucrative search ads that appear alongside its search results.
And it would require serious acceleration in Google's cloud business, which is generally considered to lag the competition.
Google Cloud Platform is generally thought to be lagging Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, the leading players in the exploding cloud computing market, mostly because it's struggled to forge relationships with the major enterprise customers it needs to turn it into revenue.
But today, on stage at the Structure conference in San Francisco, Hölzle said that while "we're clearly coming from behind," he defended Google's place in the cloud computing market, and said that there's only room to get bigger.
"Our cloud growth rate is probably industry-leading...and we have lots of enterprise customers, happy enterprise customers," Hölzle said.
He says that the cloud game is a little bit like the rise of the smartphone: The iPhone was first in 2007, basically creating the demand for smartphones. But despite a later start, Android has become the single most popular operating system in the world.
"I hope we're going to be the Android of that story," Hölzle said.
The basic idea, Hölzle is that Google has gotten very good at squeezing more and more resources out of its computing infrastructure. That means that Google can offer ever-increasing lowered prices to customers, while simultaneously raising the bar on performance.
That performance translates into programmers who can get more done for lower costs, creating a curve that benefits customers.
"You're making people more productive by spending machine resources,"Hölzle said.
So while Hölzle knows that Google is seen to be lagging with the critical enterprise market, "I think that will change very soon," he says. In fact, he says that there are some announcements coming up that will "remove any doubt."
And since the cloud is still so new, there's plenty of opportunity for Google to be had, despite Amazon's early success.
"I think the next five years in cloud will be much more evolution than the last five years," Hölzle said.
Join the conversation about this story »
NOW WATCH: A Google employee lives in a truck in the parking lot to save money