Microsoft scraps egress fees for Azure — was its hand forced by Google and AWS?

The Microsoft logo is on display at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on February 26, 2024
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Microsoft has announced it will allow unrestricted free data transfers out of its Azure cloud ecosystem for customers looking to switch cloud providers.

The move comes after fellow cloud giants Google and AWS announced they would be scrapping egress fees earlier in 2024. All three appear to be in doing so in preparation for the upcoming European Data Act, which looks to clamp down on vendor-lock in stifling competition in the cloud market.

Like AWS, Microsoft Azure previously offered the first 100GB of egressed data per month for free to all customers, regardless of which Azure region they were in.

Now, customers will be able to transfer an unlimited amount of data out of their Azure environment and migrate to another cloud provider as they choose.

Microsoft’s blog post announcing the policy shift included a statement about the firm's commitment to supporting customer choice and outlined how customers can go about migrating their cloud services.

Customers looking to take all of their data out of Azure will need to create a support request providing their Subscription ID and a rough estimate of the amount of data to be transferred.

The customer will then have 60 days to egress their data, incurring fees as normal, and will need to cancel all of the Azure subscriptions associated with the account. 

After this, customers can contact Azure support to request to claim invoice-level credit for the egress fees they paid.

As such, much like Google’s policy, Microsoft will only allow free cloud migrations to customers looking to switch cloud providers wholesale, and cancel all of their existing accounts. 

AWS on the other hand, did not include a cancellation requirement for customers to enjoy free data transfers out of the ecosystem.

Microsoft matches AWS and Google, but how big of a problem is cloud lock-in?

The decision by Microsoft to scrap egress fees did appear inevitable given both its leading competitors in the cloud computing market struck a lead in this regard. 

Speaking to ITPro earlier this month, Gartner VP analyst Sid Nag said he expected Microsoft to follow suit after Google and AWS’ moves in the space. 

Nag noted the specific language in Google’s announcement that appeared to be singling out Microsoft, referring to “overly restrictive contracting terms or punitive licensing practices”.

Google has not been alone in highlighting anti-competitive practices from Microsoft’s cloud arm, the UK’s communication regulator Ofcom has also singled out the hyperscaler

The UK’s Competition and Market Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into the cloud industry in October 2023.

The announcement highlighted egress fees, provider discounts, and technical barriers to switching ecosystems as a key focus for the investigation, referencing an Ofcom report that raised concerns around the licensing practices of some cloud providers, “in particular Microsoft”.

Nag suggested this was the ulterior motive behind Google’s early action, suggesting the decision had more to do with putting pressure on its competitor, rather than bolster consumer choice in the cloud space.

Cloud vendor lock-in is not as widespread a problem as many are making it out to be, according to Nag, who said moving into a cloud ecosystem is a big decision that requires rigorous planning. 

As such, waiving egress fees for wholesale cloud migrations is not the silver bullet for realizing a multi-cloud future.

“I think the vendor lock-in story is overblown… you don’t move into a cloud without thinking through your move, it's a very well thought out and carefully planned process.”

Nag argued these moves have more to do with marketing than material improvements for customers, who still will have a serious amount of configuration and integration work to do when switching providers.

“In general, I don’t think there’s a vendor lock-in problem. It's a nice talking point, but in practicality I don't think it happens, especially in today’s world where you don't just randomly go into a cloud provider without thinking it through,” he explained.

"In reality, how often do people actually move out or decide to move out and then find that the fees are a barrier? I don’t think that happens a lot, does it happen? Of course it does. But does it happen wholesale? I don’t think it does.”

Solomon Klappholz
Staff Writer

Solomon Klappholz is a Staff Writer at ITPro. He has experience writing about the technologies that facilitate industrial manufacturing which led to him developing a particular interest in IT regulation, industrial infrastructure applications, and machine learning.