EU regulators push to crack down on big tech cloud market abuse

EU regulators push to crack down on big tech cloud market abuse

The big three cloud service providers – Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud – account for almost three-quarters of the European cloud market, according to data published by Synergy Research Group.

And although the three companies have been subject to various EU antitrust investigations over the years, their respective cloud businesses have yet to feel the full force of EU competition law.

That said, the European Commission (EC) has investigated Microsoft for anti-competitive practices after complaints were filed by competing cloud providers, including Germany’s Nextcloud and France’s OVHcloud, last year.

Read more: Microsoft faces cloud-based antitrust complaints in Italy and Denmark

No formal investigation has been launched since, but the implementation of changes to Microsoft’s outsourcing and hosting terms in October was widely seen as an attempt to assuage EU antitrust concerns.

The revised terms are intended to make it easier to deploy Microsoft’s software products on non-Azure cloud servers and are part of the Big Tech company’s previous commitments to support European cloud providers.

Yet the recent amendments were not enough to prevent the trade association Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers in Europe (CISPE) from filing another complaint with the European Commission earlier this month, alleging that the new terms not only fail to address Microsoft’s market abuse, but add new unfair practices to its contractual requirements.

“Microsoft’s continued stance and behaviors irreparably damage the European cloud ecosystem and deprive European customers of choice in their cloud deployments,” CISPE said, urging the EC to launch a formal investigation.

Besides Microsoft, CISPE also brought the accusation of restrictive licensing agreements against Oracle and SAP.

While Azure has come under fire from rivals in the cloud delivery space, Microsoft has also been accused of unfairly bundling products with another of its cloud services – OneDrive.

A consortium of EU-based IT companies has backed an EC complaint filed by Nextcloud, saying Microsoft is limiting consumer choice and creating barriers for other market players by “aggressively pushing” OneDrive , Teams and other services on Windows users.

In both cases, software developers who want to market and sell their products to Microsoft customers have accused the company of monopolistic practices that prevent third parties from freely interfacing with Microsoft services, either through restrictive contracts or making the task prohibitive.

Many companies that joined Nextcloud’s OneDrive complaint would also benefit from Azure’s open legal and technical requirements, while Cozycloud and Aquaray are in the same boat as AWS, competing directly with Microsoft in the market for cloud hosting. services.

Related: The EC proposes to modify the definition of the market to take account of digital ecosystems

UK launches cloud market investigation

What’s interesting about the latest development is that CISPE has AWS among its members, which suggests the global cloud market leader believes it would benefit from a cloud ecosystem in which developers have more flexibility. to mix and match cloud services from different providers.

But while AWS can be sure it would benefit from a more open cloud market, UK communications regulator Ofcom named the three Big Tech cloud providers in its preliminary market investigation.

In a call for input, the regulator pointed to Synergy research which suggests that the dominance of the big three providers is even more pronounced in the UK than in Europe as a whole – taking around 81% of infrastructure service sales from country’s public cloud in 2021.

After closing the public consultation, Ofcom will conduct market research over the next year, with a final report to be published no later than 5 October 2023.

The regulator says it “will explore the extent of interoperability between services from different vendors, the ease with which customers can move their workloads and data between providers, and the ease with which customers can switch supplier or use more than one supplier”. .”

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