Tech

Cloud sellers urge EU to look at anti-competitive licensing

Cloud Infrastructure Service Providers in Europe (CISPE) has published a report on how the licensing antics of legacy software firms could distort the cloud marketplace.

The industry group is keen that protection from some of the chicanery turn up in the upcoming EU Digital Markets Act (DMA) and said: “It is imperative that the bad practices and unfair, anti-competitive behaviours of those that wield power to set licence terms are considered as part of the DMA.”

The DMA was proposed in December 2020 in order to tackle “large, systemic online platforms” that legislators believe act as “gatekeepers” to new market entrants. The act will be implemented in 2023, at the earliest.

“It must be made certain that these legacy software players will meet the definition of ‘Gatekeeper’ under the DMA terms, so this bad behaviours [sic] should be proscribed in the ex-ante requirements.”

The research by Professor Frédéric Jenny, chairman of the OECD Competition Committee and professor at ESSEC Paris Business School, took aim at Microsoft and Oracle – taking Big Red to task for its billing practices. The research spared AWS, El Reg notes.

For Microsoft, Jenny highlighted the higher costs for using Microsoft’s productivity suite on third-party clouds while those using Azure had not suffered the same hikes. The report also noted that deals to shunt a licence from on-premises infrastructure to other clouds had gone in recent years, meaning that moving to a cloud that wasn’t Microsoft’s meant you were required to purchase new licences if you wished to carry on using its software.

Oracle’s infamously byzantine licensing practices also came under fire as the research noted how Big Red charges “by CPU” for its cloud database. For third parties, the charge could be for every CPU “that could ‘potentially’ use its software,” making for some heart-stopping invoices for the unwary.

CISPE itself has a variety of members in its ranks, consisting of Scaleway, OVH, and AWS.

AWS memorably ejected multiple toys from its pram in 2019 as CTO Werner Vogels complained that Microsoft’s move “restricts freedom of choice.”

As for CISPE, it worries that the time taken to prove the illegality of the alleged practices could prove lengthy and “mean that many will simply go out of business before any resolution,” although we doubt that Bezos’ moneymaking cloud machine is likely to run short of dollars any time soon.

Instead, the group wants such practices added to the DMA to ensure competition remains fair and customers are not cajoled one way or another by the cattle prod of licensing.

“To secure Europe’s digital leadership,” CISPE concluded, “the Parliament, the Council and the Commission must act on this evidence, and they must do so now.”

The Register contacted Microsoft and Oracle for their take on the report and will update should either respond. ®




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