Last week, Microsoft dropped a bomb: In 2017, its incredibly popular SQL Server database product is coming to Linux — a free operating system that the company spent many years trying to drive into the ground.
Today, Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Corporate VP Takeshi Numoto says that following the announcement, customers have been chomping at the bit to give the preview of SQL Server on Linux a try — and hopefully move their business away from rivals like Oracle, the current king of the database market.
Since the announcement, Numoto says that roughly 8,000 companies, including about 25% of the Fortune 500, have registered to try the preview version of SQL Server on Linux. And he says that anecdotally, lots of Oracle customers are looking for a way out.
"The level of frustration I've seen in their customers has been very high," Numoto says. "Our story is recognized to be much stronger."
Note also that Amazon Web Services, which leads as the number-one cloud computing platform, has been making its own aggressive moves to snatch Oracle customers. That means that SQL Server is opening another front in the cloud wars between Amazon, Microsoft Azure, and everybody else.
The big advantage of putting SQL Server on Linux, Numoto says, is that it "extends the notion of flexibility."
SQL Server is significantly cheaper than Oracle's Linux-friendly databases, but it's traditionally been limited to data centers running on Microsoft's Windows Server tech. And customers have long resented what some say are hardball sales tactics on Oracle's part.
Since customers love running the free Linux operating system in their data centers, Microsoft is giving them the option of running their databases whenever and wherever they want — on Microsoft's own Windows Server or on the once-hated Linux.
More importantly, Numoto points out that the Microsoft Azure cloud supports Linux, with "over a quarter" of virtual machine usage revolving around the operating system. That means that if a customer wants to use Linux, they can use it consistently across their own data centers and the Azure cloud, with the same SQL Server software running everywhere.
Competitors like Oracle or IBM talk about the cloud, Numoto says, but they can't match the fact that with Azure, Microsoft has one of the biggest cloud platforms and an existing beachhead in the enterprise with its existing line of server products, including SQL Server.
Plus, the Azure cloud supports software from rivals like Red Hat, IBM and Oracle, so customers can move to Microsoft's tech without having to toss their existing investments out the window.
"We want Azure to be a place where customers can run any of their applications," Numoto says. "Our first and primary goal is to help our customers drive our cloud consumption."
Which is no joke: Microsoft Azure is currently second place to the leading Amazon Web Services cloud, but has long said that its investments in making a customers' existing applications and infrastructure integrate with its cloud are a huge leg up.
Finally, Numoto says that unlike some of its rivals, Microsoft doesn't charge its customers for extra features like data warehousing or analytics — "It's not just about cost," he says, but the fact that SQL Server comes with lots of cutting-edge data analysis features out of the box.
"Frankly, beyond technology, I think customers give us a lot of credit for how we do business," Numoto says.