Microsoft Progresses In Europe Cloud Antitrust Concerns: Reports

“In October 2022, we introduced changes to our licensing practices that address the feedback that we heard from European cloud providers,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.


Multiple media outlets have reported that Microsoft will settle with a group of overseas cloud providers to ease cloud computing antitrust concerns in Europe – all while inquiries into cloud computing competition start to heat up in the United States.

Microsoft will settle with OVHcloud of France, Aruba of Italy and the Danish Cloud Community, according to Bloomberg. The organizations complained to the European Commission that Microsoft’s licensing practices were not fair.

A separate complaint by Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers in Europe (CISPE) – a trade group that includes chief Microsoft cloud rival Amazon Web Services (AWS) – is ongoing, according to Bloomberg.

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[RELATED: Microsoft To Make Licensing Changes To Quell Europe Controversy]

Microsoft Tackles Antitrust Concerns

In a statement to CRN, a Microsoft spokesperson said that “in October 2022, we introduced changes to our licensing practices that address the feedback that we heard from European cloud providers.”

“We are grateful for the productive conversations that led us there and appreciate the feedback that we have received since,” the spokesperson said. “We are committed to the European Cloud Community and their success.”

CRN has reached out to OVHcloud and CISPE for comment.

The European Commission, which enforces competition for the 27 countries in the European Union, will monitor the settlement, according to Reuters. The commission has fined Microsoft more than 1.6 billion euros ($1.7 billion) over the past decade.

Microsoft reportedly made an offer earlier in March to European cloud rivals, but the offer was criticized as not enough by software provider Nextcloud of Germany, according to Reuters. A cloud antitrust fine against Microsoft could cost as much as 10 percent of its global sales.

In 2021, Nextcloud specifically alleged to the European Commission that Microsoft threatened competition through the bundling of OneDrive cloud storage with the Windows 10 and 11 operating systems, according to Reuters. Microsoft has also offered to discuss changes to its cloud computing practices with AWS-backed CISPE.

Nextcloud issued a statement Tuesday further accusing Microsoft of stifling openness in research on artificial intelligence (AI).

US FTC Has Cloud Questions

Meanwhile, this month the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a request for information (RFI) “about the competitive dynamics of cloud computing, the extent to which certain segments of the economy are reliant on cloud service providers, and the security risks associated with the industry’s business practices.”

The commission said in a statement that it is interested in how cloud computing affects health care, finance, transportation, e-commerce, defense and other industries.

The FTC didn’t mention particular cloud vendors – AWS is widely considered the market leader, followed by Microsoft, with Google Cloud at No. 3.

But the FTC noted that it has brought cases against alcohol delivery platform Drizly and education technology provider Chegg around failure to implement security safeguards for data stored on third-party cloud computing services.

The commission is accepting comments from the public until May 22. Specifically, the FTC wants to know:

*How reliant are particular segments of the economy on a small number of cloud service providers

*The ability of cloud customers to negotiate contracts with cloud providers

*Do cloud customers face “take-it-or-leave it standard contracts”

*What incentives do cloud providers offer customers to obtain more of their cloud services from a single provider

*How much do cloud providers compete to provide secure storage for customer data

*What cloud products and services are based on, dependent on or related to AI

*How cloud provider agnostic are those cloud products and services

*How do cloud providers identity and notify customers of security risks related to security design, implementation and configuration

As of Tuesday, six public comments were available for view on

Concerns In Europe Led To Global Microsoft Changes

In October, in an effort to appease antitrust concerns in Europe, Microsoft launched global changes to its partner program with the goal of making outsourced infrastructure hosting easier – changes still criticized by U.S.-based cloud rivals Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud.

The changes included a new partner program for “hosters,” eliminating the need for another license to virtualize Windows 10 and 11 on customer servers and outsourcers’ servers, removing the ability to outsource certain licenses on major cloud vendors’ data centers and new Windows Server virtual core licensing.

Microsoft also promised one- and three-year subscription options for Windows Server, Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and SQL Server for partners in the Cloud Solution Provider program. Microsoft promised “more monthly billing options” for one-year commitments.

The changes came after OVHcloud alleged that Microsoft licensing interfered with OVHcloud running Microsoft products on its own cloud networks while making it easier and less expensive to pair Windows, Office and Windows Server with Azure.

Microsoft eliminated the need for an additional license to virtualize Windows 10 and Windows 11 on customers’ servers or an outsourcer’s server for users with Microsoft 365 F3, Microsoft 365 E3 or Microsoft 365 E5 licenses, but said the policy change doesn’t apply to providers Alibaba, AWS, Google and Microsoft itself.

Customers who want to use those vendors for outsourcing “can acquire licenses directly from” the provider, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft changed its Services Provider Licensing Agreements (SPLA) program to remove the ability to outsource these licenses on data centers from Microsoft itself and cloud rivals Google, Alibaba and AWS.

The change sought to correct the issue of managed service providers (MSPs) buying through SPLA to host on others’ data centers, according to Microsoft. Instead, SPLA was meant for partners to offer hosted services on their own data centers.

SPLA partners have until Sept. 30, 2025, to transition from AWS, Google, Microsoft or Alibab outsourced hosting or to license directly from the providers outside of their SPLA, Microsoft said at the time.

After Microsoft announced the changes last summer, Marcus Jadotte, vice president of government affairs and policy at Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Cloud, took to Twitter to say that Microsoft’s changes continue to lock customers into its cloud.

“The promise of the cloud is flexible, elastic computing without contractual lock-ins,” Jadotte tweeted. “Customers should be able to move freely across platforms and choose the technology that works best for them, rather than what works best for Microsoft.”

Jadotte continued: “At Google Cloud, we believe that openness matters, and we continue to gain customers’ trust by promoting the security, cost, and benefits of using multiple cloud providers. We urge all cloud providers to avoid locking in their customers and compete on the merits of their technologies.”

He also authored an October blog post on Google Cloud’s website advocating for an open and competitive cloud market and decrying vendor lock-in and “legacy providers” with “outdated architectures,” without naming Microsoft or any other vendors.

CRN has reached out to AWS and Google Cloud for comment.