Can Microsoft win over Linux devs with SQL Server?

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Can Microsoft win over Linux devs with SQL Server?
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Microsoft continues to embrace open source with yesterday's announcement that it is porting flagship relational database management system, SQL Server 2016, to operating system distributions running the open source Linux kernel.

Historically a Windows-only platform, SQL Server has a very long history as part of being part of the software giant's offerings. Originally released in the late 1980s, it has now become an integral part of Microsoft's suite of software – often a mandatory requirement to many enterprise software solutions.

Microsoft has changed face since Satya Nadella took over the reigns as chief executive in early 2014, with many decisions being made to support the competition, especially Red Hat Linux on Azure, and Office on iOS and Android.

SQL Server on Linux has a planned release date of mid-2017. Right now, there is a private preview available – offering proof that this announcement is more than just a distant future intention.

Support for SQL Server on Linux will include on-premise and cloud, which fits into Microsoft's "mobile-first, cloud-first" strategy without abandoning those who have yet to embrace the cloud.

The move to deliver SQL Server on Linux is still surprising. Microsoft wouldn't make this move without expecting a bigger market share, creating another revenue stream from Linux users, or both. PostGreSQL and Oracle owned MySQL users will need a compelling reason to migrate, and convincing many Linux admins to look after a Microsoft product on 'their' servers will be another road block.

Many Linux enterprise users are sold on their free open-source solutions, and it is currently unknown what licensing will be required for SQL Server on Linux. It may save on requiring another Windows Server licence, but the target market for this won't care about that comparatively small cost.

Unless that licensing is different and cheaper than SQL on Windows, there will be little incentive for people to move to a SQL Server on a Linux solution. 

It is unknown if the Linux solution will actually be open source, which is another deciding factor for many people who like to keep their options open.

This decision may open up more third-party products to Linux houses that previously couldn't pick SQL only supported solutions, but smaller enterprises may be lacking the skills of both Linux and SQL if they aren't used concurrently.

The target market for SQL Server on Linux appears to be those already willing to spend big. Red Hat and Canocial (Ubuntu) are supporting Microsoft with this venture, which helps all involved with being flexible in being a part of most solutions required that need a database.

Another possible angle is the emergence of containers, which are gaining momentum in both Linux and Windows worlds. The ability to have a SQL instance in a container and on a Linux box is going to be a necessity once this technology becomes mainstream, as being limited to a certain OS or platform will be too restrictive for many customers.

The importance of this announcement for the community is clear: the continuing approach from Microsoft to lessen vendor lock-in, keeping choices open and ultimately prepare them for the hybrid future. Microsoft will continue to fight hard to stay both relevant and valuable in the modern technological world.

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