Why Google is waiving egress fees for disgruntled customers ditching GCP

Hint: US, UK, European antitrust police are on the hunt

Analysis Data egress fees aren't going away, but if you really want to ditch Google Cloud and take your data somewhere else, the search giant is willing to cut you a break.

In an announcement on Thursday, Google said it will waive data migration fees for those leaving its public cloud, if of course you're willing to jump through a couple hoops. Traditionally, moving data into or within a public cloud provider's network has come at little or no cost, but getting your data back out, however, usually comes at greater cost.

Google makes the case that customers shouldn't be held hostage by egress fees, especially if they're already unhappy with the services being provided.

To be clear, Google Cloud Platform, or GCP, isn't waiving egress fees entirely. Except in special cases, this program is really only for those ditching GCP for good, and even stipulates terminating your account when the migration is complete. And all of this, of course, assumes Google's support team approves it in the first place.

Here's a quick rundown of how it all works: Customers looking to leave GCP must first contact their assigned Google account team member, if they have one, before filling out the "free data transfer form."

It's then up to Google Support to review the case and determine whether you qualify. Customers approved for the program then have 60 days to get out of dodge. Having said, it appears that Google may be willing to extend that deadline if you ask nicely.

Once the migration is completed, customers must then terminate their account. If everything goes to plan, you should see a credit on your final invoice covering the egress fees.

It's also worth noting that the migration service only applies to data stored in one of the following services: BigQuery, Cloud Bigtable, Cloud SQL, Cloud Storage, Datastore, Filestore, Spanner, and Persistent Disk.

While Google is clearly targeting customers looking to get off GCP entirely, digging through the FAQ, there is a provision for a partial migration of services, which is handled on a case by case basis.

If you're looking to permanently migrate your data from Cloud Storage to something like Backblaze B2 or AWS S3, but plan to keep your services running in Google-hosted virtual machines, you may still be eligible for free data migration.

So, why is Google making it easier for customers to leave? Well, the cloud provider claims it's because egress fees aren't really as big a barrier to leaving as you might think.

Eliminating data transfer fees for switching cloud providers "does not solve the fundamental issue that prevents many customers from working with their preferred cloud provider in the first place," Amit Zavery, head of platform at Google Cloud, argued in his announcement. The fundamental issue, the Google veep contends, is that rival cloud players are getting away with restrictive and unfair licensing practices to the detriment of customers.

Google isn't naming names today, and instead argues "certain legacy providers" take unfair advantage of software monopolies to create walled gardens in the cloud. Zavery links to an El Reg article from August about Microsoft preventing Google and Alibaba Cloud from running Office 365 apps to give everyone a hint.

As you may know, we've been covering Google's complaints against Microsoft and its cloud practices for months, including interviewing Zavery in June about Azure's software licensing "tax," and how the Windows giant's proposed concessions were seen as too little, too late.

Those unfair software licensing rules "and other restrictions have no technical basis and may impose a 300 percent cost increase to customers," Zavery continued in his announcement today. "In contrast, the cost for customers to migrate data out of a cloud provider is minimal."

Whether Microsoft or Amazon will follow Google's example and cut disgruntled customers a break on egress when leaving their own platforms remains to be seen. It appears Google wants to apply pressure to those two while doing what it can, including adjusting its own policies, to convince the world that Microsoft and others are being unreasonable with licensing rules and egress fees that lock users within particular clouds.

The heart of the matter: Antitrust investigations heat up

Google's decision to make it easier for customers to take their data elsewhere comes as the public cloud sector faces scrutiny from multiple competition watchdogs – scrutiny fueled, we must note, by official complaints lodged by Google and others against Microsoft.

The cloud titan has been particularly outspoken, calling out competitors, most notably Microsoft, for what it sees as unfair business practices. So, it's not all that surprising that the search giant is taking some proactive steps to stay on the good side of those watchdogs.

Among the concerns raised by, for instance, the UK's Competition Markets Authority, are things like egress fees, special discounts, interoperability, and software policies.

As we've previously reported, the UK probe spurred no shortage of finger pointing. In December, AWS called out Microsoft's licensing terms as being restrictive and financially unviable in response to the competition watchdog's inquiries. The submission echoed concerns formally raised by Google just a week earlier, in which it alleged in a complaint that Microsoft's policies left British customers with no economically viable alternative to Azure.

However, it's not just the UK's monopoly authority that's taken notice. The US Federal Trade Commission has also, at Google's urging, launched antitrust investigations into the major cloud providers over alleged anti-competitive practices. The European Union has also opened [PDF] an investigation into Microsoft's business practices. In both cases Google has been vocal in its belief that Microsoft isn't playing fair.

To be clear, while AWS and Google keep painting Microsoft as the baddie, regulators are looking at the broader cloud market as well as their parent companies. ®

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