Civo CEO on free credits, egress fees, and hauling it all back on-prem

And why the UK cloud industry can't ape the energy sector and make it easier to swap suppliers

Interview As Britain's competition regulator probes the behavior of the cloud giants, local supplier Civo wants to see an overhaul along the lines of the energy market where consumers or businesses can swap suppliers easily.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) confirmed in October it is to inspect the health of the public cloud infrastructure landscape, after comms regulator Ofcom referred its finding for a deeper investigation. Within weeks, some potential remedies were mooted, including standardization and a cap on egress fees, although the CMA is unlikely to conclude its proceedings before April 2025.

For Mark Boost, CEO of Civo, the remedies cannot come fast enough.

Speaking to The Reg, he says: "My company's biggest frustration is around the free credit situation ... smaller providers like us, we can't afford to give away hundreds of thousands of credits ... so what ends up happening is that [cloud giants] give out these credits, then after a period of time those credits are exhausted – they're normally time limited as well.

"A year will have gone by, and you [the customer] build all your tooling around their ecosystem, which is very proprietary. And then to try and get out of that later ... there's no open standards to move to another cloud provider.

"And you also have all the high egress fees to get your data out as well, which is going to cost you money. So then you end up signing a spending commitment with them because you're locked in."

"That's my biggest frustration: I think there needs to be a limit on the amount of free credits given away."

Boost reckons 10,000 in credit should be enough to start a business or try out a service: "I think what people don't realize is that you're going to pay it [the credit on offer from the hyperscalers] back two or three times later when you're locked in."

According to Boost, Civo is a mover behind open standards and leveling the playing field. His take is that companies should be judged on customer service and performance rather than aim to lock in users. He cites Kubernetes as an example of the dream of open standards, alongside other associated technologies such as the autoscaler. "I'm a great advocate of open standards and freedom of choice.

"I don't think there should be tricks and things to tie you in and hold you to ransom when you don't really want to be there."

Famously, the cloud giants have taken to squabbling among themselves when it comes to licensing, with both AWS and Google criticizing Microsoft's policies. Regulators in Europe and the US are also taking a keen interest in the cloud sector.

More recently amid a dowturn in the economy, more and more customers are trying to clip their cloud bills, or "optimize" them as the cloud giants have claimed. The situation has reached the point where an entire industry has sprung up around finding ways to reduce spending.

Boost tells us he'd like to see a world similar to that of the UK's energy market, where customers can move from one provider to another with minimal fuss, to the point where even superior deals could be surfaced.

As for what the CMA could do, as well as dealing with the credit situation, Boost highlights egress fees: "If someone wants to leave, they should be free to leave. You should be able to give them the data, and you shouldn't have to charge an exorbitant fee for it...

"And encourage them to use open standards."

Easier said than done, of course. To a certain extent, Boost agrees: "It's tough ... because every cloud provider – even Civo to some degree – will do things a little bit differently. It's never going to be exactly the same."

Boost says he's delighted with the growth of organizations such as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and the ecosystems such groups foster. However, he also identifies three clear trends. Unsurprisingly, these include AI/ML, and he reckons that 2024 could be the year of WebAssembly.

"The other thing," he says, "is the move to on-prem."

He notes that half of Civo's conversations at the recent Kubecon North America event were with people either coming off the cloud or considering moving some of their services away.

If someone wants to leave, they should be free to leave

"A few years back, everyone was in this cloud hype … now it's like: 'This is really expensive'." Boost notes workloads that might be better served on-premises, particularly when considering solutions requiring very low latency.

"I think people are now starting to think: 'Just put it in the cloud' is not the approach."

Civo has its take on on-prem computing: "Essentially a bit like an outpost [referring to AWS Outposts] – it's the same as our public cloud, but can be delivered into your environment."

Once the CMA concludes its cloud infrastructure services investigation – a provisional decision is expected from the CMA by October 2024 and a final decision by April 2025 – then companies wanting to repatriate some workloads to another datacenter of their choosing should be abe to do so.

At least that's the hope. ®

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