Email Records Show Microsoft Dominating In Norwegian Businesses and Government

Tommy
March 30 2021

Key Takeaways

  • While market dominance was formerly an issue discussed for operating systems, the modern equivalent occurs in form of cloud services, primarily from Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

  • Data from the Norwegian business registry mapped to email records shows that Microsoft Office 365 has become a dominating force amongst Norwegian private businesses and 61% of the government.

  • Microsoft being a significant actor for email indicates that Norwegian organisations are putting a lot more faith in Microsoft. Today email as a service is bundled with direct messaging and wikis.

Introduction

In 2003 Dan Geer, Bruce Schneier and others wrote a paper named “How the Dominance of Microsoft’s Products Poses a Risk to Security”. It eventually cost Geer his job at AtStake.

Cybersecurity as Realpolitik by Dan Geer, presented at Black Hat USA 2014. In the presentation he gives Microsoft some credit for improving the security situation in Windows. At the same time, have a look at his presentation form without PowerPoint.The paper evolves around Microsoft’s dominance in operating systems and some solutions to market dominance as a problem.

In this article I am not going to reiterate on the points made by Geer et ├ál. I think these are perfectly valid and easily transferrable to the current landscape. The whole paper is read-worthy, but I’d like highlight one part:

Governments, and perhaps only governments, are in leadership positions to affect how infrastructures develop. By enforcing diversity of platform to thereby blunt the monoculture risk, governments will reap a side benefit of increased market reliance on interoperability, which is the only foundation for effective incremental competition and the only weapon against end-user lock-in. A requirement that no operating system be more than 50% of the installed based in a critical industry or in a government would moot monoculture risk. Other branches to the risk diversification tree can be foliated to a considerable degree, but the trunk of that tree on which they hang is a total prohibition of monoculture coupled to a requirement of standards-based interoperability.

The European Union has long been a proponent of interoperability in markets.Azure is Windows in 2021. The walled gardens are somewhat redefined - but they are there in a similar fashion as Windows was in 2003. The Microsoft monopoly is technically broken, and there are now options from Amazon, Google and even Apple, but I would argue the monoculture is still present in shared approaches, infrastructure and concepts.

I decided to have a closer look at the distribution from a representative dataset provided by an authorative source in Norway; the business registry.

Taking a Close Look at The Data

In Norway we a public registry of organisations. This registry is categorised by standardised sector codes (typically “government”, “private” and so on). Using the JSON-data provided by brreg.no, a list of websites can be extracted:

Retrieve the organisation list from brreg.no:

    curl https://data.brreg.no/enhetsregisteret/api/enheter/lastned > enheter.gz
    gzip -d enheter.gz

Reshape the JSON data by website URL, sector and business code.

    cat enheter | 
	jq '[.[] | select(.hjemmeside != null) | {url:.hjemmeside, code:.naeringskode1.kode, sector:.institusjonellSektorkode.kode}]' > webpages.txt

Based on the URL, add the primary domain and resolve its MX record and the MX primary domain to each JSON entity

A rough categorisation based on the Norwegian standard provided by Statistics Norway (I’m sure it could be improved)Using the JSON-file generated above, populate the following JSON dictionary.

   {
     "government":{"codes": [6100,6500,1110,1120], "total":0, "counts":{}},
     "municipals":{"codes": [1510,4900,1520], "total":0, "counts":{}},
     "finance":{"codes": [3200,3500,3600,4300,3900,4100,4500,4900,5500,5700,4900,7000], "total":0, "counts":{}},
     "private":{"codes": [4500,4900,2100,2300,2500], "total":0, "counts":{}}
   }

Generate CSV output based on each sector grouping above.

The Result

The top vendor was not surprising Microsoft’s outlook.com. For the 120k sites, 98k resolved an MX record. Of these I will give an outlook.com summary as follows, as it would seem this is the dominating actor in all categories:

  • In government 61% is O365 users (1420/2317)

  • For municipals, the amount is 55% (688/1247)

  • For the diverse financial grouping, 21% uses O365 (4836/23125)

  • For the diverse private companies 38% uses O365 (14615/38129)

Of the 98k sites Microsoft runs the email service for 21559 organisations. For comparison Google MX domains accounts for about 5500.

While the above are directly a measurement of who delivers email services, it also indicated that these organisations relies on other services, such as internal wikis and direct messaging.

An overview of the top 10 vendors are shown below.

Sources of Errors

Even though I believe the statistics above is representative it has some possible sources of error:

  1. The organisation isn’t listed with URL in the organisation registry or it uses a domain not associated with the primary domain of its web address

  2. The organisation uses an SMTP proxy

  3. The organisation has an inactive SMTP record

I found that there are more than 1 million listed organisations in the brreg.no registry and 120k websites in the JSON data provided. This means this dataset represent at most 12% of the companies listed.

Also, email doesn’t represent a diverse infrastructure, but I believe it is an indicator of the current trends also for other cloud services in e.g. Azure, Google Compute Engine and so on.

Tags: #microsoft #o365 #cloud #google #amazon #distribution #trends #monopoly
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