Microsoft have just announced a range of changes to their rules around using their software in SOME cloud environments, aimed at reducing some of the heat they’ve been receiving from European cloud providers – including complaints to the European Commission – and also heading off potential issues with the EU Digital Markets Act.
The changes include CSP access, more support for providers from Microsoft, and some changes to Software Assurance licensing rules too.
Microsoft have been under fire from various angles due to their licensing rules that restrict which products can be used within 3rd-party datacentres…particularly when compared to Microsoft Azure. It recently came to light that ‘OVHCloud’ lodged a complaint with the European Commission in 2021 and many of the “Fair Software Licensing Principles” were seen to be aimed at Microsoft too.
The current BYOL (Bring Your Own Licensing) rules of Microsoft restrict certain on-premises licenses from being used in cloud environments (apart from Azure) which, for some customers, causes frustration and higher costs…and in some cases it means a project cannot be completed.
Microsoft have announced a big new focus on ‘European Cloud Providers’ (ECP) – giving them expanded access to CSP (Cloud Solution Program) as well as creating a new internal team to focus on supporting them and their customers.
Cloud providers can host more products
The ECPs will be able to offer hosted desktop solutions containing Windows desktop and Office – including Office 365 Apps for Business/Enterprise. They will offer this via their own “unified solutions” and also by hosting customer-owned licenses – hugely expanding the available options for customers.
Microsoft are also expanding the availability of long-term fixed pricing for these providers, removing some of the pricing volatility from them and their customers.
Software Assurance changes
This is a pretty big one – Microsoft are adding ‘License Mobility’ rights to Software Assurance for Windows Server, Windows desktop, and Office. This means customers can use their on-premises licenses in 3rd-party ECP datacentres (but not AWS, GCP, or Alibaba), something that wasn’t possible before.
New Windows Server licensing option
Windows Server is licensed based on the physical CPUs and cores within the server. Microsoft are now introducing the ability to license just the virtual capacity you need, regardless of the underlying hardware. Whether this will be available globally and across all licensing programs, or restricted to just ECP datacentres, is something we are yet to discover.
European Cloud Providers – and more?
Although Microsoft’s announcement was careful to keep referring to ‘European Cloud Providers’ – it seems a Microsoft spokesperson has confirmed that the CSP and Software Assurance changes apply globally (via Mary Jo Foley). This means the vast majority of cloud providers are now able to offer something to their customers that they couldn’t previously.
On the flipside of that though, the main takeaway is that this doesn’t help customers looking to run software on AWS, Google, and Alibaba (the Listed Providers) and, in all honesty, that’s where I see most of the customer issues in this area. However, perhaps Microsoft hope that not only will these changes placate the EU but that they will also divert business away from the Listed Providers to smaller partners instead. In the new world, Microsoft may see that as a win…sure, they’re not on Azure…but they’re not on AWS either.
Microsoft have confirmed here that these changes do NOT apply to the Listed Providers – Amazon, Google, and Ali-Baba.
Microsoft have outlined their 5 “European Cloud Principles”:
and also discussed their plans to further partnerships around providing sovereign clouds for various European governments.
Microsoft’s full announcement is here.