Microsoft Drops Another Philosophical Bombshell, Reveals It's Bringing SQL Server To Linux

Microsoft dropped its latest software philosophy bombshell Monday by revealing that it's working on bringing its SQL Server database to Linux for the first time.

SQL Server is one of Microsoft's oldest products, making its debut in the late 1980s. And for most of that time, it's only been possible to run SQL Server on Windows.

But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, since taking the helm more than two years ago, has been pushing to bring Microsoft software to competing platforms, and SQL Server on Linux is the latest example.

"Bringing SQL Server to Linux is another way we are making our products and new innovations more accessible to a broader set of users and meeting them where they are," Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Group, Monday.

Microsoft has launched a private preview of SQL Server on Linux that includes core relational database capabilities, and the full product won't be ready until mid-2017, according to Guthrie. Microsoft will officially unveil SQL Server on Linux on Thursday at its Data Driven event in New York.

Microsoft partners told CRN they believe SQL Server on Linux will help Microsoft drive more cloud business and compete more effectively with Oracle and IBM in the database market.

"Microsoft has been No. 1 in units sold and No. 2 in revenue [behind Oracle] for quite some time, and all that comes from running on Windows exclusively," said Andrew Brust, senior director, market strategy and intelligence at Datameer, San Francisco. "Now they will be able to tell customers that they can run SQL on any server they desire, including the ones running Red Hat Enterprise Linux."

"SQL Server on Linux makes a lot of sense when you consider Microsoft's strategy of allowing you to use their tools on any platform -- and especially when considering the hybrid capabilities of Microsoft's on-premises stack," said Chris Hertz, CEO of New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner. "What better way to drive cloud consumption than to empower more companies to use your on-premises server platform?"

Microsoft, which used to loathe Linux and open-source software in general, is now embracing it like a long-lost friend. In another major strategic shift last November, that enables the open-source vendor's products -- including Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), the JBoss middleware platform and RHEL applications -- to run on its Azure cloud.

Earlier this month, Microsoft acquired Xamarin, a San Francisco-based mobile app development startup that lets developers build apps for Android and Apple iOS using Microsoft's C# programming language. Xamarin was founded by Nat Friedman and Miguel de Icaza, who also founded Ximian in 1999 and worked together to build Mono, an open-source implementation of the Microsoft .Net development framework.

Hertz said he thinks Microsoft's new stance on open-source technology, and its support for SQL Server on Linux, will help drive more customers to Azure. "Microsoft no longer cares so much about you running their Windows OS, as you're using their public cloud, and specifically Azure," said Hertz.

SQL Server on Linux could also help Microsoft attract new types of developers, such as ones that use Docker containers and who build apps using Macs instead of PCs, according to Brust.

"It's just another piece of the puzzle, which, when solved, lets Microsoft say with a straight face that it is a cross-platform software company," Brust told CRN. "The Windows focus is shifting to Azure. Simple as that."

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