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Microsoft’s SQL on Linux announcement is a sign of changing times

Microsoft | Posted on April 26, 2016 by Michael Losleben

Microsoft’s SQL on Linux – an inevitable transformation?

The recent announcement that Microsoft is extending SQL Server to run on Linux is great news for businesses, Microsoft and the industry in general. And its relevance goes way beyond the—albeit huge—announcement itself.

On its surface, this will mean flexibility and choice for users of SQL Server, which Gartner has placed in the top right of its magic quadrant. The database server will offer a consistent platform across Windows Server and Linux environments, whether on-premise and on the cloud. It is, in fact, all part of Microsoft’s own cloud play with Azure, and it is great news.

SQL already has a solid share of the market, especially in the mid-market space. This announcement will allow it to even better compete with the likes of Oracle, SAP and IBM, which can run on Linux but which are significantly more expensive and complicated to maintain. In recent years, SQL has also been losing some share to open-source database alternatives that, frankly, don’t share its solid performance, security or robustness—they just aren’t that good, but they are cheaper. Of course, what they can do is run on Linux.

But if data is a business’s lifeblood, it can’t really be trusted on a subpar system just because it runs on the platform of one’s choice. So, you can begin to see why for businesses, especially those using Linux (or leaning towards it), this will be a major boon.

Playing well with others

It runs so much deeper, though. This shows Microsoft’s newfound commitment to being cross platform, with SQL Server and, in fact, with its products across the board. Even gaming console lovers will note similar timing around Microsoft’s announcing future support for cross-platform play with its rival Sony

I write “newfound” because this is not a move any of us would have expected a decade ago. In fact, in 2001, Microsoft’s then chief Steve Ballmer called Linux a “cancer” on intellectual property. He recently, however, said he praised the move to port SQL Server to Linux, even sending a note to current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to congratulate him on the decision.

So what changed? Well, the industry landscape for one.

A decade ago Microsoft had a seemingly unbreakable kung fu grip on the corporate world, at least from a platform perspective. But the worldview has widened with the advent of Google and the iPhone. People want different platforms and options; they want to use what they want to use, whether for feature sets or even mere status. And Microsoft is clearly getting that.

For Linux, there’s a particular status to using it—a coolness factor. For some, Windows seems like an “old stodgy” thing, the older generation’s platform. Despite being around for decades, Linux still has an air of being fun and colourful.

And the switch goes both ways? While this will free up Linux users to embrace SQL, there may be those curious about Linux who’ve had their technology tied to SQL. If you’re one of those businesses, it could open a new direction and exciting new options for you. For example, it will become easier to create mobile content for consumption on non-Windows client-side platforms.

Braving a new world

In today’s BYOD world, Microsoft—a company with a foundation built on its operating system platform—is opening up to push an almost Bring-Your-Own-Platform reality. It’s a smart move. People want choice, and if you give it to them, you are more likely to be the chosen.

SQL for Linux is expected mid-2017, so keep your eyes open for it. There are still some unknowns, but this will be the biggest fundamental change Microsoft is making to their product.

Talk with your account management team around any licensing implications, as well as any assessment services we can offer to help you understand the impact this announcement may have on your business and if SQL on Linux will be right for you.

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