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CISPE and Microsoft in Cloud Competition Talks

The Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers in Europe (CISPE) organization and Microsoft are in discussions to resolve competition issues in Europe.

Specifically, they are addressing "unfair software licensing for cloud infrastructure providers and their customers in Europe," per a Wednesday CISPE announcement. CISPE is apparently referring to Microsoft's licensing restrictions that make it more costly to offer Windows Server or SQL Server services from a non-Microsoft cloud service provider's infrastructure than from Microsoft Azure infrastructure.

Microsoft told European regulators back in August 2022 that it was making some concessions in that regard, but just for independent cloud service providers. Microsoft specifically excluded Alibaba, Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft itself from being able to benefit from its licensing concessions.

While CISPE's announcement didn't describe the details of the discussion with Microsoft, it credited the talks as resulting from a "formal complaint filed by CISPE with the Directorate General for Competition," a body that oversees European Commission competition complaints.

Microsoft has been given a deadline to show progress with the current CISPE talks by "the first quarter of 2024," per CISPE's stipulations. If an agreement is reached, "any remedies and resolution must apply across the sector and to be accessible to all cloud customers in Europe," CISPE indicated.

The whole blow-up can be traced back to a "bring your own license" change Microsoft made in 2019, which added restrictions for cloud service providers. A very good background summary can be found in this 2019 ZDNet article by veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley.

CISPE is an organization that promotes having a "digital single market" for cloud services in European Union countries. It lists its multiple members at this page, including Amazon. Both Amazon and Google had complained back in 2022 about Microsoft's proposed licensing changes that excluded them, per a Reuters report at that time.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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