Microsoft: SQL Server for Linux is the real deal

Now available in a public preview, SQL Server for Linux aims to be full-featured like the Windows edition and a robust, long-term choice for enterprises

Microsoft: SQL Server for Linux is the real deal
Credit: Sarah Reid

Those who wondered what it would be like to run Microsoft SQL Server on Linux now have an answer. Microsoft has released the first public preview of the long-promised product.

Microsoft also wants to make clear this isn’t a “SQL Server Lite” for those satisfied with a reduced feature set. Microsoft has a four-point plan to make this happen.

First is through broad support for all major enterprise-grade Linux editions: Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu Linux, and soon Suse Linux Enterprise Server. “Support” means behaving like other Linux applications on the distributions, not requiring a Microsoft-only methodology for installing or running the app. An introductory video depicts SQL Server installed on RHEL through the system’s yum package manager, and a white paper describes launching SQL Server’s services via systemd.

Second, Microsoft promises the full set of SQL Server 2016’s features for Linux users—not only support for the T-SQL command set, but high-end items like in-memory OLTP, always-on encryption, and row-level security. It will be a first-class citizen on Linux, as SQL Server has been on Windows itself.

Third is Linux support for the tooling around SQL Server—not SQL Server Management Studio alone, but also the Migration Assistant for relocating workloads to Linux systems and the sqlps PowerShell module. This last item is in line with a possibility introduced when PowerShell was initially open-sourced: Once ported to Linux, it would become part of the support structure for other big-name Microsoft applications as they, too, showed up on the OS. That’s now happening.

By bringing SQL Server to Linux, Microsoft can compete more directly with Oracle, which has long provided its product on Linux. Oracle may be blunting the effects of the strategy by shifting customers toward a cloud-based service model, but any gains are likely to be hard-won.

The other, immediate benefit is to provide Microsoft customers with more places to run SQL Server. Enterprises have historically run mixes of Linux and Windows systems, and SQL Server on Linux will let them shave the costs of running some infrastructure.

Most of all, Microsoft is striving to prove a Microsoft shop can lose little, and preferably nothing, by making a switch—and a new shop eyeing SQL Server has fewer reasons to opt for a competing database that’s Linux-first.

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