Pigs sure sprouted wings yesterday when Microsoft announced, without warning or preface, that it was doing the previously unthinkable: producing a version of SQL Server for Linux.
This shakeup has implications far beyond SQL Server. Here are eight insights into why this matters -- for Microsoft, its customers, and the rest of the Linux- and cloud-powered world.
1. This is huge
The facts alone are seismic. Microsoft has for the first time issued one of its server products on a platform other than Windows Server.
You wanted proof Microsoft is a very different company now than it was even two or three years ago? Here it is. Under Steve Ballmer's "Linux is cancer" reign, the most Microsoft could muster was a grudging admission of Linux's existence. Now there's the sense that Linux is a crucial part of Microsoft's future and a vital component in its continued survival and success -- definitely not Dad's Microsoft.
2. Microsoft isn't going open source with its server products
You can definitely drop the thought of Microsoft open-sourcing its server products. Even on a practical level, this is a no-go; the legal clearances alone for all the first- and third-party work that went into any one of Microsoft's server products would take forever.
Don't consider this a prelude to Microsoft SQL Server becoming more like PostgreSQL or MySQL/MariaDB. Rather, it's Microsoft following in the footsteps of vendors like Oracle. That database giant has no problem producing an entirely proprietary server product for Linux and a Linux distribution to go with it. But that doesn't make Oracle an "open source company" -- a misleading term spawned mainly by observing one outlier, Red Hat.
Microsoft's newfound enthusiasm for open source is largely practical, and the same goes for this embrace of Linux. Microsoft's biggest motivation is exposure and market share. Linux servers remain far more numerous than Windows Server installations, so why not attempt to capture some of that market?
3. This is a slap at Oracle
Another motive, directly inferred from the above, is that this move is a shot across Oracle's bow -- taking the fight for database market share directly to one of the chief platforms.
Oracle has the most revenue in the commercial database market, but chalk that up to its costly and complex licensing. However, Microsoft SQL Server has the largest number of licensed instances. Linux-bound customers looking for a commercial-quality database backed by a major vendor won't have to settle for Oracle or contemplate setting up instances of Windows Server simply to get a SQL Server fix.
The threat isn't an immediate one. Migrating away from Oracle is never a snap (even if most of the obstacles revolve around licensing terms rather than technical issues). In the meantime, Oracle can continue to milk its installed base, either in-place or by moving customers to its burgeoning cloud environment.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.