Microsoft opens up to open source with SQL Server for Linux

In what represents the company’s most notable shift to a services-first approach, Microsoft Corp. on Monday revealed the open source flavour of its SQL Server database product via its blog.

The announcement marks the first time the Redmond, Wash.-based vendor has featured Microsoft SQL Server on a platform that isn’t Windows-based. SQL Server on Linux — offering “core relational database capabilities,” according to the company — will be available in private preview effectively immediately, with a target release date of mid-calendar year 2017.

While Microsoft hasn’t gone so far as to open sourcing the product’s code — as recently as 2007 the company had threatened to seek royalties from users and distributors on patents it held for technologies in Linux and open-source software — the fact that SQL Server can now run on Linux servers reflects Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s focus on positioning the company as a service-oriented organization.

For example, Nadella has been open about positioning its Microsoft Windows Azure cloud-based platform as a home for open-source and non-Windows technologies.

“It’s a market expansion opportunity,” Nadella told the New York Times this week, a likely reference to the fact that Microsoft trails behind Oracle Corp.’s database products in terms of market share at the large enterprise level. Oracle has traditionally been able to run within Linux, Unix and Windows Server platform environments.

IDC enterprise infrastructure analyst Al Gillen in the Official Microsoft Blog post outlines the reasoning for the move, noting that SQL Server on Linux is about offering more customer choice, reducing platform lock-in, and accelerating the overall adoption of the relational database server product.

Indeed, SQL Server now potentially becomes a more competitive option for organizations leery of Windows licensing costs or that prefer to operate in a mixed IT environment that includes open source.

Just this past year, Microsoft Canada president Janet Kennedy reinforced the company’s present customer outlook in an IT World Canada blog post: “As an organization, we’re deeply committed to openness and we want our customers to be empowered with choice and flexibility when it comes to their technology.”


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