Matt Pavlovich

Founding Partner at Media Driver

January 26, 2017

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MS SQL Server on Linux


In March of 2016, Microsoft Executive Vice President, Cloud and Enterprise Group, Scott Guthrie announced that Microsoft would be releasing MS SQL Server on Linux. The announcement was delivered at the Microsoft Data Driven event in New York which featured Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Since the announcement, Microsoft has released the availability of a public preview for download.


What makes this announcement unique?

There has not been an enterprise-grade Database System product announcement of this magnitude in a very long time. Open Source database systems are making headway, but still significantly lag the two dominant players—Oracle and Microsoft for processing enterprise business transactions.

MS SQL Server is a valuable commodity. By supporting Linux, Microsoft now has an upper hand in competing with Amazon Web Services and Oracle for paid Enterprise cloud compute cycles. Oracle DB has run on Linux for a long time and Amazon Web Services released their cloud-based MySQL-compatible database.

Microsoft will also be able to position MS SQL to compete head-to-head with Amazon Web Services for organizations looking to avoid cloud services lock-in.

What is Microsoft’s motivation for supporting SQL Server on Linux?

One word: containers. Microsoft is transitioning their Enterprise business from a model of selling software-licenses for systems operated in private data to a pay for compute resources model in the cloud.

Microsoft is focused on paid compute cycles of any kind, regardless of programming languages or operating systems.

What does this mean for Microsoft Windows?

Enterprise desktops and consumer home computers will most likely continue to be dominated by Windows as the Operating System. For back-office Enterprise compute applications, there is a clear shift towards containers running on Linux servers.

Cloud-based Microsoft Windows instance pricing has been a sore spot for Enterprises looking to shift some or all of their Windows workloads to the cloud. The announcement by Microsoft that the future of .NET will include Linux native support under the .NET Core branding further justifies the outlook that Microsoft is transitioning their business focus to operating Compute Cycles in the cloud instead of owning an entire stack.

Microsoft Windows is not going away by any means; however, organizations should strongly consider Java-on-Linux or .NET Core-on-Linux for strategic application development efforts as they will be better positioned to operate within a container ecosystem.

What does this have to do with Containers?

Containers are a more efficient way to divide computing resources than Virtual Machines. Put another way, containers turn the operating system inside out. Instead of having a number of Virtual Machines, each with their own operating system running on a server, containers are small sub-set of the operating system needed to run a given application or database. The result is higher density and less resources needed to get an application up and running.

Applications running in Virtual Machines: Full Operating System + Application
Applications running in Containers: Small subset of operating system + Application

Containers are native to Linux. Microsoft is working to provide a compatibility layer to support “Windows Containers”; however, we expect it will be difficult for organizations to justify the additional cost for running containers on Windows, as there will undoubtedly be feature gaps and shortcomings.

How committed is Microsoft to Linux as a primary OS for SQL Server?

Media Driver’s analysis of this announcement, and the Microsoft strategy in general points to SQL Server on Linux not only being supported as a first class option—but as the target platform.

One telling fact is that Microsoft has developed drivers for programming languages with very small Enterprise market share—Python, Ruby and Node.js. Media Driver believes this move is about engaging with developers across all types of organizations in support of their primary business focus, which is paid compute resources on their cloud platform, Azure. Listed below are some items that we believe point to the magnitude and Microsoft commitment behind this announcement:

  1. The announcement was made by Scott Guthrie who is Executive Vice President, Cloud and Enterprise Group.
  2. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella participated in the product announcement activities.
  3. Microsoft’s announcements included quotes from leaders within its Linux partners Red Hat and Ubuntu
  4. Microsoft has developed native database drivers for Java, ODBC drivers for Ubuntu, Red Hat and SUSE Linux.
  5. Microsoft has developed open-source drivers for Python, Ruby and Node.js
  6. Microsoft has released the new .NET runtime (.NET Core) with native Linux support.
  7. This is all about containers.
  8. Media Driver’s assessment is that Microsoft is transitioning from a license per use model to a cloud-hosting model.

What about NoSQL/Big Data and all the new database platforms?

Big Data and NoSQL systems provide immense value in a number of in-demand use cases for Enterprise data and reporting. However, Media Driver believes that the number of business application use cases that demand RDBMS features such as transactions, and ACID compliance will continue to exceed the number of use cases best suited for NoSQL and Big Data. Enterprises will continue to require stable, full-featured RDBMS data base platforms and human resources with the knowledge to support them.

What's the hype?

  1. MS SQL on Linux is here for real.
  2. The upside is very attractive to all Enterprises, especially organizations that are primarily UNIX-based and do not currently utilize MS SQL Server.

How do I ensure success?

  1. Plan for proof-of-concept engagements for testing SQL Server on Linux in your environment for late-Q3 or Q4 of 2017.
  2. Access current commercial and in-house applications utilizing UNIX-based databases, including Oracle, DB2, SAP DB to identify candidates for migration.
  3. Compare current database spend for candidate applications with cost estimates for MS SQL on Linux.
With information in hand, IT managers will be able to make informed decisions about which database products will be target state for their organizations for the next 3-5 years. Information regarding cost savings can provide negotiating pressure agreements with current database vendors.

What are the alternatives to MS SQL Server on Linux?

  1. The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems has Microsoft and Oracle leading all other challengers by a wide margin.
  2. MySQL was an up and coming Open Source challenger; however, since the Oracle acquisition MySQL adoption in the Enterprise has not taken off as previously expected within the industry.
  3. The original technical leaders behind MySQL have created a fork of the MySQL codebase named MariaDB.
  4. PostgreSQL is an up and coming Open Source database.
  5. SAP HANA and IBM DB2 continue to maintain significant market share.
  6. Amazon Web Services released a MySQL compatible database that can be used by applications in their cloud infrastructure.
  7. The hype behind using NoSQL databases (such as MongoDB and others) to replace traditional SQL databases for transactional workloads has subsided. The NoSQL platforms are settling into the Data Warehousing and Analytics space, and organizations that had attempted NoSQL replacements for transactional workloads are now separating operational database systems (SQL) from data warehousing and analytics (NoSQL).


Media Driver is not a Microsoft partner nor does it have any formal affiliation with Microsoft.
Gartner Report: Gartner “Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems,” by Donald Feinberg , Merv Adrian , Nick Heudecker, October 2015

Trademark Information

Microsoft, Microsoft SQL Server, .NET & Azure are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation
Oracle, Java & MySQL are registered trademarks of Oracle Corporation
Amazon Web Services is a registered trademark of, Inc.
Red Hat is a registered trademark of Red Hat, Inc.
Ubuntu is a registered trademark of Canonical Ltd.
"Python" is a registered trademark of the Python Software Foundation ("PSF")
MariaDB is a registered trademark between the MariaDB Foundation and MariaDB Corporation Ab
PostgreSQL is a registered trademark of PostgreSQL Community Association of Canada
SAP, SAP HANA & SAP DB are registered trademarks of SAP SE
IBM and IBM DB2 are registered trademarks of IBM Corporation
Linux is the registered trademark of Linus Torvalds
SUSE Linux is a registered trademark of SUSE
Node.js is a trademark of Joyent, Inc.
Gartner is a registered trademark of Gartner, Inc.

Related Material

Scott Guthrie Blog Announcement
Microsoft SQL Server Public Preview
Microsoft SQL Server on Linux white paper
Microsoft Unveils SQL Server's Future
Open source has won, and Microsoft has surrendered
Microsoft tells devs: Whatever you're doing in Linux, Windows 10 will soon do it too
Does Microsoft Love Linux Too Much?