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AWS CEO Andy Jassy slams Microsoft over cloud-focused Windows Server licensing tweaks

AWS CEO Andy Jassy took to the stage at Re:Invent 2019 and slammed Microsoft for attempting to pull Windows Server customers back on to its cloud through its recent licensing tweaks

Amazon Web Services (AWS) CEO Andy Jassy has taken aim at Microsoft for switching up its licensing terms to allegedly discourage its customers from running Windows and SQL Server workloads in non-Azure clouds.

During his keynote presentation on the second day of the AWS Re:Invent customer and developer conference in Las Vegas, Jassy talked at length about how enterprises are increasingly looking for escape routes from persistent, legacy technologies, including mainframes and commercial-grade databases.

The latter has emerged in recent years at Re:Invent as a recurring theme of discussion, with database giant Oracle and its pricing strategy usually coming in for some critique from Jassy during his annual keynote, which this year featured around 30 new product announcements. 

While Oracle received a passing mention during the 2019 Re:Invent keynote, it is Microsoft which found itself in Jassy’s crosshairs this year, over its decision to tweak the licensing terms for its SQL Server to make it harder for users to run its database technology where they want.

“We don’t meet customers not trying to flee Oracle. One of the things we’ve seen over the last couple years is [a] change [where] people are trying to get away from SQL Server pretty quickly as well. One of the reasons is you see a return to the ways of old for Microsoft where they’re not prioritising what matters to you guys,” said Jassy.

“For many years, you were able to take the SQL Server licences that you bought yourself and run it where you want it. One day, Microsoft decided they didn’t want to let you do that. Was it good for you? No. Is it good for Microsoft? Maybe.”

He continued: “People are sick and tired of being pawns in this game. That’s why they are moving as fast as they can to open engines like MySQL and Postgres… but to get the performance you need from these open engines that compares well to these commercial-grade databases, it’s hard and takes a lot of work.”

Jassy then went on to discuss the licensing tweak Microsoft introduced earlier this year that means users could be financially penalised for opting to run their Windows Server deployments in non-Azure clouds, if they purchased licences for the software after 1 October 2019.

He described the move as an attempt by Microsoft to “stranglehold” Windows Server workloads back onto its own platforms, in response to the news that more than 50% of Windows workloads now run in the AWS cloud.

“If you look at Windows in the cloud, 57% of Windows in the cloud runs on AWS. Now the company that owns that operating system is not so crazy about that, so they just decided to change [their licensing] and said new versions of Windows cannot run on dedicated instances in other cloud providers.”

Incidentally, two days before the Re:Invent keynote, AWS announced details of a new service designed to help customers migrate their legacy Windows Server applications over to its Windows Server on AWS platform.

At the same time, continued Jassy, the number of organisations relying on the Linux operating system is growing four times faster than Windows, which suggests enterprises are tiring of the Redmond’s software giant’s licensing tactics.

Computer Weekly contracted Microsoft for comment on this story, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

The decision by Jassy to hit out at its closest competitor within the public cloud space comes hot on the heels of Microsoft beating AWS to the highly controversial decade-long, $10bn US government-backed Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract.

Speaking to Computer Weekly at Re:Invent, cloud economist at Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn, said the motivation behind Jassy’s comments could be interpreted a number of ways, but may also speak to the challenges it is facing with penetrating the more traditional enterprise IT market.

“[AWS’s] meteoric growth was fuelled by early adopters and production engineering. The folks who run the SharePoint server in the closet, if you’ll forgive the over-simplification, is a different matter entirely,” he said.

“Whether people love or hate their enterprise IT vendor is largely secondary; the decision is generally made based upon inertia. For proof of this, observe that Oracle still has customers but no friends.”

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