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Microsoft to release SQL Server for Linux

If you had told me three years ago that Microsoft would release software for Linux, I would have been incredulous. But that's already happened. Now Microsoft has announced that they are going to release a version of their SQL Server relational DBMS for Linux next year.

Does this decision mean that Microsoft no longer views Linux and open source as a cancer or a Communist plot? With Satya Nadella as CEO, and Steve Ballmer off to spend his time as an NBA team owner, the answer is probably "yes". However, I don't think that Microsoft is porting SQL Server to Linux out of the goodness of their rain-soaked hearts.  Instead, it's a clear-headed business decision.

Ten years ago, when MySQL began to gain significant market share among database users, both Oracle and IBM saw that their flagship relational DBMS products were losing market share, particularly to startups and smaller businesses. To compete, each introduced free "Express" versions of their products that were mostly the same as their standard products, except for a limit on database size. While they didn't make any money on these offerings, and while the products remained proprietary, they saw the Express versions as a way to engage with new companies and to capture them as "customers". The idea was that some of these companies would grow and would eventually need an enterprise database product and support. In that way, it was far better for these companies to already have made a commitment to an Express edition, which would greatly simplify the transition to an Enterprise version. Their sales teams would have a much harder time convincing MySQL or PostgreSQL users to switch to (and pay for) an Oracle or IBM proprietary DBMS.

I view Microsoft's decision to support SQL Server on Linux in much the same light. At this point, we don't know if they will offer a no-cost community edition, similar to IBM's DB2 Express-C or Oracle Database Express Edition, or whether they will price it comparably to SQL Server on Windows. This announcement lines up well with Microsoft's previous announcements for Azure, where one can run virtual Linux machines on Azure. As Windows and Linux become the main server platforms, it makes no sense for Microsoft to cede a large share of the market. So they have decided to compete on both platforms, making this announcement just one of a series of steps that reflects today's reality in the software market.