In what was once a far-fetched idea, Microsoft announced in March that their SQL server would be compatible on Linux after 23 years as strictly a Windows application. In the eight months since the announcement that shocked the industry, reaction has been positive despite initial fears that the ability to run SQL on Linux may disincentive people from using Windows. Now that SQL Server on Linux has become available in public preview as part of the database’s next release, experts have expressed their opinion on how the biggest SQL Server news of the year will affect the industry.
SQL expert Joey D’Antoni of Denny, Cherry & Associated recently weighed in on his expectations of the relationship between Microsoft and Linux.
First, he touched on the warming of relations between the two companies, which culminated in Microsoft creating SQL Server on Linux. “It's just been a general trend since Satya [Nadella] took over [as CEO in 2014]. I think [former CEO Steve] Ballmer saw Linux as a threat and Satya realized that a lot of young engineers grew up only using Linux to program things. I think that's why we got SQL Server on Linux ... Microsoft just embraced open source really strongly.”
In addition, he suspects that Microsoft and Linux joining forces is a way to gain on industry leader Oracle. “I think you'll hear some people say that this was a play at Oracle, and I think it was a little bit, but ... it's aiming at getting younger developers and startups using a real database. I think part of it is that Standard Edition is relatively affordable and, if you put those nice features in your application that really gives them a point of differentiation between Postgres and MySQL. Now that they're going forward on this, if it hurts Oracle on the way, I don't think anybody would be too upset about that.”
D'Antoni again points to Steve Ballmer leaving Microsoft as the catalyst that pushed Microsoft and Linux to get past their differences to make the biggest splash with SQL since 2005. “Seeing this huge organizational shift in Microsoft, I think that's really cool. SQL Server 2016 was amazing. I think it was probably the biggest release of SQL Server since 2005 in terms of functionality changes… I think Microsoft continues to be a leader in the space, and they're pushing the envelope pretty far against Oracle and their competitors in the open source space.”
Rohan Kumar, general manager of database systems at Microsoft, said recently that customers wanted to pick a database “without being forced onto a specific operating system.” Kumar added that there was some uncertainty regarding the decision because it could cut Window’s revenue, but as the project moved forward, it was clear that it would do the opposite and “open up SQL server to a whole set of customers who previously couldn’t even contemplate it.”
For over two decades, Microsoft ignored these requests. Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President for Cloud and Enterprise at Microsoft, said that the opportunities to grow outweighed the risk of keeping SQL restricted to Windows.
The initial response has been positive, with 21,000 people signing up to use the Linux preview and 3,000-4,000 using it extensively.