Concerns Raised Over Limited Competition and Challenges for Businesses to Switch Providers
The United Kingdom‘s anti-competition regulators have initiated an investigation into the dominance of Microsoft and Amazon in the cloud computing sector. Media watchdog Ofcom has referred the inquiry to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), marking the beginning of a comprehensive examination.
Ofcom expressed concerns about specific features in the cloud computing market that hinder the ability of UK businesses to switch between cloud providers or utilize multiple cloud services. The regulatory body highlighted particular worries regarding the market positions of Amazon and Microsoft, both considered market leaders.
Challenges in the Cloud Computing Market
Ofcom identified that certain aspects, such as “egress fees” charged by cloud vendors like Amazon and Microsoft, present obstacles for businesses aiming to migrate their data between providers or adopt a multi-cloud approach. Egress fees refer to charges imposed on cloud companies when they transfer a firm’s data out of their cloud environment.
Additionally, Ofcom pointed out that cloud providers have introduced “technical barriers” to interoperability, making it harder for companies to integrate different services across various cloud providers or transition between providers seamlessly.
Another area of concern raised by Ofcom is the practice of offering committed spend discounts, which encourage customers to stick with a single cloud provider even when more cost-effective alternatives exist.
Market Dominance by Major Players
The investigation focuses on the dominance of “hyperscalers” such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, who command a substantial share of the cloud computing market. Together, AWS and Microsoft Azure account for approximately 60% to 70% of cloud spending in the UK, according to Ofcom’s estimates.
The CMA has welcomed Ofcom’s referral, emphasizing the critical role of competition in a market that underpins various online services, including social media and AI foundation models.
Potential Impact of Investigation
The Competition and Markets Authority’s independent inquiry group will thoroughly examine the cloud computing market, identifying necessary actions to promote competition. The investigation is expected to conclude by April 2025.
The probe comes at a time when cloud services are integral to AI advancements, digital innovation, and a wide range of industries, making effective competition in this sector essential. Regulatory scrutiny aims to ensure that market power remains distributed across multiple players, unlocking the full potential of these rapidly evolving digital markets for the benefit of consumers and the UK economy.
Striving for a Competitive and Accessible Cloud Market
The investigation into Microsoft and Amazon’s market dominance in cloud computing reflects the UK’s commitment to fostering a competitive and accessible cloud market, enabling businesses to switch providers and benefit from a wider range of cloud services. This regulatory action is part of ongoing efforts to ensure fair competition and innovation in the digital landscape.