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Microsoft’s Linux play is an enormous decision made, but is it too late with MariaDB, EnterpriseDB, Oracle and IBM already way ahead in the open source database market?

On Tuesday the 8th of March, Microsoft announced that its database software would be available for the Linux platform starting mid-2017.

The move to bring SQL Server to Linux was pitched by the company as a way for it to make its products and new innovations more accessible to a broader set of users, and like most other vendors it wants to be seen as flexible and open to other technologies.

IDC enterprise infrastructure group VP Al Gillen called it an "enormously important decision for Microsoft," but is it a big move for the database market?

SQL Server is ranked as the second most popular database choice behind Oracle, which holds about 40% of the market share compared to 21.55% for Microsoft.

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This may be a big step for Microsoft but it is isn’t something unique to the company. Oracle already offers Linux as does IBM, amid other challengers such as Enterprise DB for the PostgresSQL databases.

Microsoft is simply matching the rest of the market.

Key behind the announcement is Microsoft’s acceptance of open source. The move is perhaps a bigger validation for the open source community than it is a big play for Microsoft.

Red Hat, one of the leading open source players has welcomed the announcement by a company that it works with. Mike Ferris, Snr Director, Business Architecture, Red Hat told CBR: "Microsoft’s announcement that it plans to bring SQL Server to Linux is further validation of the power and acceptance of Open Source in enterprise environments."

Going into detail as to why it is a benefit to customers he said: "Enterprises will be able to further integrate disparate platforms to deliver on the promise of the hybrid cloud, while increasing the choice that developers, customers, and partners have as Open Source continues to form the foundation of the platforms of the future."

It should be noted that major validation of the open source market by a company like Microsoft could potentially give it a boost, something that would benefit an open source vendor like Red Hat.

Ed Boyajian, CEO, of the database vendor EnterpriseDB mirrored these comments from Red Hat, telling CBR: "SQL Server on Linux is another great win for open source."

Boyajian says that this is telling move because it highlights that the old economics of IT no longer work. Pressure from CIOs on proprietary vendors to provide more innovative solutions that offer greater value has been a key factor in the decision.

"Microsoft is clearly working out how to re-engineer its well-established business practices and processes to accommodate the more collaborative and agile approach of open source software," said Boyajian.

So is this then a major re-alignment taking place in Microsoft? The end to proprietary and an embracement of all things open source – probably not.

However, Microsoft’s change of strategy is certainly being welcomed by customers. CIO Rex Johnson told CBR in a recent interview: "We’re very glad that Microsoft is going that way. I think it’s absolutely the correct thing to do, to open your software arm to other vendors."

Opening the database to other vendors is one of the ways that Microsoft can help overhaul Oracle’s dominance of the market. Essentially open source will help the company to innovate more quickly by tapping into the community.

Fast development is one of the areas that proprietary vendors have struggled in the past, while more nimble open source database vendors have been able to turn around enhancements much more quickly.

Community thinking

MariaDB for example has just revealed its Spring 2016 release in which it has added greater protection, improved availability and performance.

The open source database vendor which typically deals with Online Transactional Processing has revealed new capabilities to defend against application and network-level attacks and the introduction of the MariaDB Security Audit service, this is designed to help customers identify and remedy data security weaknesses.

The security improvements help to protect against SQL Injection and denial of service attacks, and transparently encrypts data both at rest in the database and in motion to and from applications.

MariaDB is another of the open source database vendors that have welcomed Microsoft’s decision to introduce SQL on Linux.

Nishant Vyas, head of products and strategy, MariaDB, told CBR: "That would add to the range of database software choices on one of the world’s most popular technology platforms, and choice is a benefit for end-users."

Although MariaDB positions itself as the standard database for all the major Linux distributions it is quite welcoming to the Microsoft move, perhaps like others it feels that this is a strong validation of the open source way.

Despite this, Vyas says that Microsoft will have to learn the way it operates, simply opening up does not equal success. Vyas said: "Microsoft will have to learn how it operates otherwise they risk falling behind."

Like any strategy move Microsoft’s will be open to scrutiny, from talking to the open source community I can safely say that simply saying you are open to it isn’t enough, there is a mutual relationship that needs to be forged.

Microsoft will need to learn to both share and accept what the community is doing for this move to be more than a public relations stunt aimed at drawing interest to SQL Server.

This article is from the CBROnline archive: some formatting and images may not be present.