Cloud

Microsoft will let customers run Office 365 on AWS virtual desktop

Microsoft is loosening its grip on 365 licensing amid raised eyebrows from European regulators.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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Amid mounting pressure from European regulators concerned that Microsoft makes it too difficult to untether its Office software from its Azure cloud services, the company is making a minor concession.


The Register reported that Microsoft will now issue some customers specific licenses that will allow them to run Microsoft 365 Apps and some other programs through Amazon—specifically, those customers using Amazon WorkSpaces’ virtual desktop infrastructure. Under prior licensing terms, customers would’ve had to purchase additional licenses to do so. Microsoft and Amazon confirmed the switch in separate announcements.

Directions on Microsoft first reported the change; its analyst Wes Miller told The Register the alternate method remains “very premium” and expensive.

“You’ll need a Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 subscription for every user accessing Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise on Workspaces,” Miller said. That means each user will be billed for access to features like Enterprise Mobility and Security or Virtual Desktop Access, even if they never use them.

Ultimately, Microsoft is “still offering far better terms with Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) or Windows 365 than they do for AWS, Google or Alibaba,” Miller added. Neither Google nor Alibaba’s cloud services appear to have won any concessions in this change.

Competitors have complained that Microsoft licensing policies mean it is far pricier to run its software on rival clouds. (Microsoft makes no secret of this; its website advertises that “AWS is up to 5 times more expensive than Azure for Windows Server and SQL Server. Why run them anywhere else?”)

As The Register reported, Microsoft’s recent clashes with regulators have included a European Commission probe into its practice of bundling Teams with its other productivity suites, and a complaint Google lodged with the Federal Trade Commission claiming Microsoft unfairly locks its customers into using Azure. Microsoft also settled a European Commission competition complaint brought by local cloud competitors on undisclosed terms earlier this year. Similar accusations from the Cloud Infrastructure Service Providers of Europe (CISPE) trade group have yet to result in any kind of deal.

“What concerns our members is that it is still not clear what these deals are,” Francisco Mingorance, CISPE’s secretary general, told The Register of the settlement with local suppliers in May. “They are bilateral and secret, and although we expected something to be offered to everyone across the market (otherwise surely it's creating new antitrust issues), it is not at all clear what the detail of those changes will be.”

Microsoft didn’t respond to IT Brew’s request for comment on this story by publication.

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to cloud computing, IT Brew covers the latest trends shaping business tech in our 4x weekly newsletter, virtual events with industry experts, and digital guides.