SQL Server for Linux: A sign of Microsoft's weakness. Sort of

Also signals stronger cross-platform tools, access to new markets


Analysis Microsoft is porting SQL Server to Linux, with a private preview available now and full availability “in mid-2017”.

This is a big strategic move for the company. Microsoft’s server applications, including Active Directory, Exchange, SharePoint, SQL Server and Dynamics CRM, and the various components of System Center, have previously been Windows-only.

SQL Server dates from 1989 (for OS/2) and was originally ported from Unix, in association with Sybase and Ashton Tate. The first Windows version was in 1993, when Windows NT was introduced. Microsoft gradually rewrote the ported code, so by the time of SQL Server 7.0 in 1998, it was mostly its own. Porting it to other operating systems made no sense; after all, it was itself originally a port.

Microsoft put SQL Server at the heart of its development platform, alongside the .NET programming runtime, and in fact combined the two, adding .NET stored procedures to SQL Server 2005. The Visual Studio IDE has special support for SQL Server, and Microsoft steered developers to use it by default in their client-server applications, using it in all their examples and building special programming support into .NET with LINQ (Language Integrated Query) to SQL in 2007.

SQL Server, in other words, became a key part of Microsoft’s Windows platform, extending the company’s desktop dominance to the server. It was one of the components that kept businesses hooked to Windows. Porting it to Linux, in days before cloud and mobile, would only have weakened that hold.

What has changed today? “Windows everywhere” no longer works, thanks to Microsoft’s fumbling failures in mobile and an industry shift towards web applications and cloud computing, where Linux servers predominate. Even on the desktop, Macs at the high end and the odd Google Chromebook at the low end have weakened Microsoft’s hold. Seen in this light, the appearance of SQL Server on Linux is a sign of weakness, not strength.

That said, Microsoft has figured out ways to make money in a world of diverse operating systems, welcoming Linux into its Azure cloud and supporting services such as Office 365 on iOS and Android as well as Windows.

Porting SQL Server to Linux increases its potential market, and will help Microsoft to compete with Oracle and to run on public clouds such as AWS (Amazon Web Services) which are mainly Linux-based.

There are some tricky issues ahead though. SQL Server is a complex product, with features that support business intelligence and data warehousing as well as relational data management. High availability features rely on Windows Server Failover Clustering. SQL Server 2014 introduced a fast in-memory database technology called Hekaton (the proper name is SQL Server In-Memory OLTP) that was designed to integrate tightly with the Windows operating system. Guthrie has not said how much of SQL Server is destined for Linux, referring only to the “core relational database capabilities” that are now in preview. More details may emerge on Thursday, at an event in New York to launch SQL Server 2016.

SQL Server’s .NET stored procedures are another interesting area. Microsoft has been hard at work creating a cross-platform version of .NET called .NET Core, though it is not yet done, and it may be that SQL Server on Linux will use this.

The likelihood is that SQL Server will continue to work better on Windows than on Linux for a while yet.

The positive spin, then, is Microsoft is strengthening its cross-platform development platform and opening new markets by bringing SQL Server to Linux. It should be seen alongside .NET Core, Linux on Azure, and other initiatives like the Linux R Server acquired from Revolution Analytics.

The negative spin is that this is a symptom of the weakening hold of Windows in the IT industry.

Both are true, and Microsoft’s task now is to create software that succeeds on its own merits across multiple operating systems, rather than simply because it is the default choice in Windows world.®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • India reveals home-grown server that won't worry the leading edge

    And a National Blockchain Strategy that calls for gov to host BaaS

    India's government has revealed a home-grown server design that is unlikely to threaten the pacesetters of high tech, but (it hopes) will attract domestic buyers and manufacturers and help to kickstart the nation's hardware industry.

    The "Rudra" design is a two-socket server that can run Intel's Cascade Lake Xeons. The machines are offered in 1U or 2U form factors, each at half-width. A pair of GPUs can be equipped, as can DDR4 RAM.

    Cascade Lake emerged in 2019 and has since been superseded by the Ice Lake architecture launched in April 2021. Indian authorities know Rudra is off the pace, and said a new design capable of supporting four GPUs is already in the works with a reveal planned for June 2022.

    Continue reading
  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021