To some, it might be another sign of an evil corporation turning over a new leaf. To others, it could be a plot to undermine its enemies. Both sides would probably agree it’s another cold day in hell. Microsoft has just revealed its plans to brings its SQL Server database software to Linux. Although not exactly its first Linux software, SQL Server is the most significant one so far. The irony of the situation is that, at least in Microsoft’s past, the company looked down upon Linux, and open source in general, going as far as calling the OS a cancer.
Granted, those statements were made by then CEO Steve Ballmer, popular for his “outbursts”. The cancer statement stemmed from the largely “copyleft” license that the Linux kernel uses, which, in most cases, requires other parts of the platform to be open source as well.
Since then, and especially under Satya Nadella’s stewardship, Microsoft has taken a less antagonistic stance, going as far as publicly proclaiming their love for open source. Then in April last year, Microsoft made hell freeze over the first time by announcing Visual Studio Code, a version of its IDE available for Linux and perhaps the first software Microsoft has made that specifically targeted that OS. (You could argue that Microsoft’s Android apps are technically Linux-based as well, but that might be stretching things too much).
A fully-featured Linux version of SQL Server, however, is an epic jump in terms of embracing a former enemy. Together with MySQL and PostgreSQL, Microsoft’s SQL Server is one of the most used relational database software in the world. Bringing its key advantages to Linux definitely opens up a whole new world for web and server administrators. Linux companies Red Hat and Canonical of Ubuntu fame were quick to applaud the move.
Once the shock has subsided, however, one can probably see the deeper meaning behind Microsoft’s strategy. Like its “Windows as a Service” slogan, Microsoft is practically de-emphasizing the operating system in its product portfolio. Making its services and apps available on platforms aside from Windows (and Mac to some extent) ensures that Microsoft will always have a presence, regardless of which operating systems become the next fad.
Just to be clear, though, Microsoft isn’t making SQL Server open source, which isn’t going to sit well with many open source advocates on Linux anyway. Also, the target is around mid-2017, so changes, including cancellation, can still happen.