Data is the new oil as Microsoft reveals SQL Server will run on Linux by 2017

8 Mar 2016

For Microsoft, data is the new oil and opening up SQL Server to Linux is as much about realism as it is about opportunism

The changing shape of Microsoft has been given extra impetus with the news that SQL Server will be available on Linux by 2017. This is the latest in a bold series of moves that has seen Microsoft open up and embrace other IT ecosystems.

Data is the new oil and Microsoft is clearly showing that it wants to make the pick axes and drills, as well as the shovels, as it makes itself more amenable to other platforms.

For example, under CEO Satya Nadella’s leadership, the company has gone beyond making just PC software for other platforms to, in the past year, revealing versions of core Microsoft products like Office for Android and iOS, as well as decoupling the Azure cloud platform from being a Windows-only beast.

SQL Server is one of Microsoft’s core business software offerings but, because it is a deep enterprise integration level platform, it features on the less sexy scale of IT compared with shiny gadgets and mobile apps.

‘This is an enormously important decision for Microsoft, allowing it to offer its well-known and trusted database to an expanded set of customers’

But the realm of back-office IT is where the real money is in enterprise and it is a vital, lucrative area in which Microsoft fights tooth and nail with rivals like Oracle.

Later this week, at a Data Driven event in New York, Microsoft will reveal new features coming with SQL Server 2016, including new encryption capabilities, in-memory database support, data warehousing, business intelligence for every employee on every device, advanced analytics and new hybrid cloud capabilities.

SQL Server on Linux signifies grasp of realism at Microsoft

This move would appear to be a sign that Nadella is accepting the reality that Linux servers are becoming just as popular as Windows servers.

“SQL Server on Linux will provide customers with even more flexibility in their data solution,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president at Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise Group.

“One with mission-critical performance, industry-leading TCO, best-in-class security, and hybrid cloud innovations – like Stretch Database, which lets customers access their data on-premises and in the cloud whenever they want at low cost – all built in.

The latest move to make SQL available on Linux isn’t opportunist, it is realistic. According to Gartner, Linux is gaining on Windows Server.

In 2014, some 3.6m Linux servers were shipped, up from 2.4m in 2011. In the same timeframe, Windows servers fell to 6.2m from 6.5m.

“This is an enormously important decision for Microsoft, allowing it to offer its well-known and trusted database to an expanded set of customers”, said Al Gillen, group vice president, enterprise infrastructure, at IDC.

“By taking this key product to Linux, Microsoft is proving its commitment to being a cross-platform solution provider. This gives customers choice and reduces the concerns for lock-in. We would expect this will also accelerate the overall adoption of SQL Server.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years