UK regulators could be right about cloud portability obstacles

But technical differences could be harder to regulate

Last week, U.K. communications watchdog group Ofcom reported that it was investigating cloud infrastructure vendors — paying particular attention to Amazon and Microsoft — for making it too difficult to move workloads from public clouds. This raised a legitimate question about the obstacles to portability.

The report pointed to three things in particular that Ofcom would investigate: egress fees, the payments these companies charge when customers want to move data from their platforms; general restrictions on interoperability and portability; and discounts they use to keep companies with large workloads on their platforms.

Ofcom is investigating whether cloud vendors, especially the largest ones, have been deliberately putting up roadblocks to keep customers from changing vendors, giving consumers fewer options once they’ve committed to a particular seller. That could put smaller competitors at a distinct disadvantage.

Typically, Ofcom looks at consumer issues like the cost of broadband, but it sees cloud computing as a public utility, where pricing has a direct impact on U.K. businesses. The inquiry suggests that U.K. authorities see a possibly deliberate attempt on the part of these companies to keep their customers in the fold.

Of course, every company wants to keep its customers from churning. That in itself is not necessarily a problem, but if these companies are setting up systems to make it difficult for customers to switch, then that becomes an issue for groups like Ofcom. It’s worth noting that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission also announced an inquiry into public cloud vendors last month, asking for public comment on market power and security risks. It joins the EU, which launched an investigation into Microsoft last year.

When we asked Microsoft and Amazon about the report, they both said they are working with Ofcom and are committed to a competitive market in the U.K. Yes, that’s all well and good and exactly what you would expect from the vendors, but do these groups investigating anticompetitive behavior have a point?

Source link