EU: CISPE attacks Microsoft’s cloud licensing policy

A few months after having unveiled the revision of its cloud licensing policy in Europe, Microsoft is attacked by the CISPE. This is an association bringing together several suppliers including OVHcloud, Aruba, but also a certain AWS.

Will Microsoft slip through the cracks of the European Commission? Unlikely given the complaints that accumulate against the firm. On November 9, the CISPE association (Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers in Europe) filed a complaint against Microsoft with the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition (DG Comp). This action comes in addition to those of OVHcloud – filed last March – and those of the Italian cloud service provider Aruba and the Danish cloud community based in Copenhagen. In its complaint, CISPE takes into account “the serious unresolved issues and represents the European cloud infrastructure sector as a whole”, she specifies. Among its members, there are in addition to the actors mentioned above, AWS. The latter had winced at the announcement last August of Microsoft’s relaxations on its cloud licenses.

The association was not convinced by the announcements of the Redmond firm. It notes that the contractual conditions unilaterally imposed by Microsoft on October 1, 2022 add additional unfair practices to the already existing list. In this sense, the firm’s actions “irreparably damage the European cloud ecosystem and deprive European customers of any freedom of choice in their cloud computing deployments”. She adds “that she has no choice but to bring a civil action and ask the European Commission to act”. Francisco Mingorance, Secretary General of CISPE, adds: “We have filed this industry complaint in order to remedy the damage suffered by suppliers and customers due to unfair software licensing practices”.

The CISPE provides leads

In its complaint, CISPE suggests several solutions that can be implemented in the industry, including an auditable control framework testing compliance with the Ten Principles of Fair Software Licensing. She thus returns to the ten principles, designed and launched in 2021 with Cigref. The charter launched under the high patronage of Cédric O, former Secretary of State for the Digital Transition and Electronic Communications, aims to restore a certain balance. “It’s about bringing together people of good will in order to initiate a virtuous approach, in a market where the customer/supplier relationship is fundamentally unbalanced”, admitted Philippe Rouaud, questioned on the subject when the charter was published. The ten principles revolve around four major issues: cost optimization, transparency, interoperability and benevolence.

Since its publication in April, many associations of suppliers and customers in Europe have therefore approved it. Ultimately these players want to ensure that software licenses from a dominant software vendor cannot be used to self-prefer, discriminate against, or in any way lock customers into their own cloud ecosystems. The association therefore urges the European Commission to open an investigation into Microsoft’s practices in this area and bring the publisher to comply with the proposed control framework. In its complaint, CISPE also proposes the “creation of an independent European observatory to carry out periodic audits of the software licensing conditions of any dominant software company”.

OVH gives news on its complaint

Another complainant met this week, OVH, replied that he was waiting for news from the European Commission following his complaint, the latter being under investigation. Launched on the subject, the supplier did not hesitate to make a point on the question of sovereignty. For Michel Paulin, CEO of OVHcloud, “data autonomy is becoming a real challenge”. He indicates that “OVH is now positioned as a player that guarantees data sovereignty and technological sovereignty”. The company also admits to being in contact with Microsoft, and welcomes the intention to improve but remains critical of the identified blocking points.

“We are awaiting announcements relating to the new type of license that will be defined and its details. The evolution of prices, noticed in February before the start of the war in Ukraine, is struggling to pass through to cloud players. “There are price differentiations such that if you are an actor and you refuse to distribute the Azure solution, then you face price discrimination” specifies Michel Paulin. “On the other hand, there are other areas, in particular pricing and interconnection, which pose problems. By default, you are necessarily interconnected with OneDrive, and we want the interconnection to be triggered in order to offer sovereign solutions because OneDrive is not a sovereign solution,” he recalls. “The devil is in the details and above all in the concrete, so we are waiting for the concrete” concludes the CEO of OVHcloud.

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