Microsoft faces EU antitrust complaint from OVHcloud

Several companies 'taking action to ensure a level playing field among cloud services providers' in Europe

Microsoft is facing an antitrust complaint in Europe from France's OVHcloud.

The French data centre provider, which sells web hosting, cloud computing and dedicated server instances, filed the complaint with the European Commission's (EC) antitrust arm in the summer of 2021.

The filing - which has only come to light over the past few days - focuses on how Microsoft runs its licensing operation. Pulling services from Azure, it is alleged, can make things a good deal more expensive for competing clouds.

An OVHcloud spokesperson told The Register: "We confirm that several companies including OVHcloud are taking action to ensure a level playing field among cloud services providers operating in the European Digital Single Market, by filing a complaint with DG Competition of the European Commission against Microsoft. According to the plaintiffs, through abusing its dominant position, Microsoft undermines fair competition and limits consumer choice in the cloud computing services market."

The Reg understands two other European cloud players joined in the complaint.

In complaints filed to the Commission, the plaintiffs are anonymous until quite late in the process, with the defendant only becoming aware of the identities of the complainants months after it has been in the system.

It's been a busy 12 months for OVH: it suffered a fire that destroyed one of its data centers in March. Another bit barn was later written off as the company recovered from the incident. OVH then went public on the Euronext Paris stock exchange later in 2021 with an offering price of €18.50 per share and currently stands at €23.19 at the time of writing.

As for Microsoft, it was already the subject of a complaint filed with the EC competition watchdog late last year by on-premises collaboration platforms provider NextCloud, which is aggrieved over Microsoft's habit of bundling OneDrive and other services with Windows.

In response to the OVH complaint, a Microsoft spokesperson told us:

"The cloud market is growing and European cloud providers have built successful business models using Microsoft software and services. Cloud providers enjoy many options to provide cloud services to their customers using Microsoft software, whether purchased by the customer or the partner. We're continuously evaluating how we can best support partners and make Microsoft software available to customers across all environments, including those of other cloud providers."

None of toing and froing with administrations like the EC will be new to Microsoft.

In 2018, Microsoft president Brad Smith issued some vaguely patronizing advice around antitrust to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, no doubt linked to the Windows giant's storied history of dealing with complaints around its business practices dating back decades.

Famously, in 1998's US v Microsoft Corp, Microsoft was accused of monopoly activity by giving away its browser software for free, an action that led to the collapse of rival browser-maker Netscape. It ultimately settled the case in November 2001, agreeing to be monitored and to disclose certain APIs and protocols.

Later, in a 2007 abuse of dominance case in Europe, Microsoft Corp. v. Commission, the EC told Microsoft it had to divulge specified information about its server products as well as release a version of Windows that didn't have Windows Media Player bundled in.

Microsoft has since cultivated a more cuddly appearance and dodged many of the lawsuits lobbed by its rivals. However, regulators are taking notice once again as complaints against Microsoft mount up.

After all, the company has form when it comes to nudging customers toward its cloud. AWS was not happy, for example, when Bring Your Own License SQL Server was removed in 2019 and Microsoft has faced scrutiny over alleged attempts to kill off resellable perpetual licenses. ®

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