March 10th, 2016

Eclipse, SQL Server & Debian Based OS: How Microsoft Sells Linux and Open Source

Microsoft’s use of open source continues to be a one-way street to drive business Redmond’s way.

Microsoft this week continues it’s quest to become respected as an open source player.

I have a colleague who takes exception whenever I use the phrase “open source player” because he thinks we need to stress the concept that open source is a community endeavor. Those who participate in the process, he says, should be encouraged to see themselves as “citizens,” whose work is for the greater good.

Microsoft's one way streetI wholeheartedly agree. However, there are entities like Microsoft whose open source endeavors are based solely on greed and who don’t deserve to wear the mantle of open source citizenship. They’re players, pure and simple. Microsoft only “loves” Linux because it has figured out a way to sell it. Maybe one day…but not today.

The first shot in the latest barrage of open source love from Redmond came on Monday when Scott Guthrie, the executive vice president of the company’s cloud and enterprise group, posted a blog announcing the upcoming release of SQL Server for Linux.

SQL Server is a Microsoft product used by enterprise customers to manage databases. It is proprietary software, and it’s not cheap. A quick Google shows one MS reseller offering the Standard edition for small businesses with less than 30 users for over $800, with separate client access licenses required for each user. Move up to the Enterprise edition and the cost goes up to over $13,000. I point this out because…well, because it illustrates exactly why Microsoft loves Linux so.

Some Linux big shots like SQL Server as well, and are welcoming both this port, along with the new Microsoft which now embraces open source.

“We are delighted to be working with Microsoft as it brings SQL Server to Linux,” Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth says. “Customers are already taking advantage of Azure Data Lake services on Ubuntu, and now developers will be able to build modern applications that utilize SQL Server’s enterprise capabilities.”

Canonical, of course, is currently partnering with Microsoft on a number of projects. As is Red Hat, with RHEL getting Microsoft’s top recommendation from Azure. Red Hat’s Paul Cormier, the company’s president of products and technologies, is also singing the praises of SQL Server being brought to Linux.

“SQL Server’s proven enterprise experience and capabilities offer a valuable asset to enterprise Linux customers around the world,” he says. “We believe our customers will welcome this news and are happy to see Microsoft further increasing its investment in Linux. As we build upon our deep hybrid cloud partnership, spanning not only Linux, but also middleware, and PaaS, we’re excited to now extend that collaboration to SQL Server on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, bringing enterprise customers increased database choice.”

The Linux version of Microsoft SQL Server is scheduled to be delivered by the middle of next year, and will be used on stand alone servers running Ubuntu, Red Hat or any other distro. But Microsoft is mostly hoping for it to attract customers to its Azure cloud, where it’s already making a sizable fortune, mostly by selling the Linux it loves.

The open source lovefest continued Tuesday when Microsoft announced it had joined the Eclipse Foundation as a middle tier “Solutions” member, after years of resisting efforts to get it on board. As you might expect given the company’s recent history, it’s bringing a bagful of goodies to the table, such as open sourcing the Team Explorer Everywhere plugin for Eclipse as well as adding Azure IoT support to Eclipse’s Kura IoT framework.

Eclipse is welcoming Microsoft to the fold with open arms and is painting the company as a genuine open source player. This isn’t surprising, given that Mike Milinkovich, the foundation’s executive director, spent time as a vice president at Oracle, another company with questionable open source credibility.

“For Microsoft, this is another indication that they are embracing open source and the open source community,” Milinkovich said. “For Eclipse it is a further validation of the new cloud-based tooling platforms our community is building.”

If a Linux port of SQL Server and the joining forces with Eclipse wasn’t enough, on Wednesday we learned that Microsoft has released another open source operating system, called SONiC or Software for Open Networking in the Cloud. This one is based on Debian and like Redmond’s other Linux OS, ACS or Azure Cloud Switch, it’s designed to make the managing of hardware vendor agnostic by use of SAI, an API Microsoft gave to the Open Compute Project last year. Microsoft has indicated that it intends to give the new operating system to Open Compute as well.

In the end, however, none of this is new, and in fact harkens back to the days before Redmond fell in love with Tux. All of these efforts are entirely aimed at channeling business Microsoft’s way. It’s a one-way street. Redmond is only making it easy for open source developers to work and play well with the Microsoft universe.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

11 comments to Eclipse, SQL Server & Debian Based OS: How Microsoft Sells Linux and Open Source

  • Microsoft will do anything it sees necessary to raise profits. Since their profits are down, they have to keep pushing everything they can to make more money. I am wondering what will happen when their profits go up.

  • Mike S.

    @charlie-tca,
    Microsoft had 93.6 billion in revenue in 2015. I don’t think that’s their best year ever, but they are not hurting.

    Please understand, I wouldn’t trust their intentions towards free software, ever. Their whole business model is built upon selling proprietary software licenses. I’m sure offering SQL Server on Linux is strictly a matter of self-interest – they decided that they’ll make more money selling additional SQL Server licenses on Linux than they will lose from customers that stop buying Windows Server to run SQL Server.

    But claiming the company has revenue problems is misinformed. We are decades away from a Microsoft collapse, no matter how much we wish otherwise.

  • Andy

    Other than my WAP and whatever software is running on my cable-modem from Time Warner, my entire house is running Linux (or Android derivative). I dumped Windows in 1997 and I never looked back. My home server and laptop run Fedora. My wife’s laptop is Ubuntu. The tablets and phones are all Android.

    But hating on MS for this is just silly. As long as Microsoft complies with the license requirements, they should use it. If they fail to comply with the license requirements, they should get sued.

    Is Microsoft doing this to make money? Probably. And . . . so what? Google uses Linux to make money. Facebook uses Linux to make money? I don’t see anyone HATING on Samsung for using Android to make a buck. That is what companies do (or they tend to go away, see SUN Microsystems). Red Hat makes money from Linux and that is great. Not sure if Canonical has ever made a profit, but I want them to. I want them to make TONS of freaking money because of Linux. If Microsoft can find a way to leverage FOSS to make a profit . . . IT MEANS WE ARE WINNING.

    Rather than criticize their motives, MS should be welcomed. And apparently others agree, because the Eclipse Foundation is working with them as is Red Hat and Canonical. That said, the community should be very clear that they will be held to the same license expectations as everyone else. It is the license that makes FOSS special, not the corporate logos.

    If they use FOSS software, they will start contributing to FOSS software in the form of bug reports, patches, improvements, etc. Microsoft can’t substantively improve Debian and keep it away from the rest of the community. Again. That is what the license is designed to prevent and it works.

    Is SQL Server FOSS? Nope. And it won’t be any time soon. But this is a major step forward for a company that once referred to Linux as a cancer (which it is not). Take a deep breath. The world is changing.

    AND OPEN SOURCE IS WINNING.

  • Bob

    If I were going to use a database in Linux and the open source world, I would most likely use PostgreSQL. I would NOT use any paid product like MS SQL Server. One of the reasons many companies today turn to open source is one, cost and two great tools and support in the open source community. Buying MS SQL Server for Linux would defeat those two stated goals, IMO.

  • Mike

    @Bob,

    I agree, however there are plenty of people who run Oracle on Linux. It takes all kinds, I guess.

    It is possible to see this as a way for some companies to ween themselves off of Windows and certainly that is a good thing.

  • Bob

    @Mike, Excellent point! Thank you.

  • Having helped out on various business applications (Enterprise level in companies from prime stock segment) running on SQL- and Windows Server…I can confirm that both are highly overpriced pieces of shit.
    I could not recommend anyone using Linux to run SQL server.
    On the other hand, to get rid of Windows Server it could be an approach. But you would mostly only save the database engine – the application server will probably still be tied to Windows. So nothing really won….
    Looks like some bling-bling to catch the CEO….

  • Roger Oot

    Why would anyone chose Microsoft SQL Server to run on GNU/Linux, when there is MariaDB and Postgres, or if you have to have a commercial product Oracle for GNU/Linux or even Sybase for GNU/Linux?

    And if you have to have one of the latter commercial products, you are probably not going to be running them on GNU/Linux anyways but on IBM AIX or Sun Solaris or HP UX.

  • Eddie G.

    As far as I see it, theres nothing to be “gained” from MS joining the ranks of Open Source, period. The only one who stands to gain something is…MICROSOFT. The Open Source community already HAS their own homegrown version of database software, more than one version and flavor. So why on Earth would someone decide to install MS SQL on their machine? I don’t have any “personal” hatred of Microsoft, I don’t pay attention to them anymore….they’ve proven to me and to the masses they’re only in it for the money, and they will steamroll, and bully whomever they set their targets on, in order to make a profit and to destroy the competition. As for all these companies that are accepting MS with open arms? I would caution you, beware whom you make friends with, not every company who smiles at you and offers gifts has your best intentions at heart. As for those who think it’s “ok” for MS to join in on the FOSS-fun, just because they’re giving bits and pieces of themselves away doesn’t mean they wouldn’t stamp out open source in a heartbeat if they could. No matter how you look at it. FOS will ALWAYS be a lurking threat to MS since they offer just about everything MS does FOR FREE, and I don’t care how much money a corporation has?…offer them something that works, is secure, easy to maintain and FREE?…and ALL proprietary offerings take a back seat to the negotiations. Just a word of caution.

  • Eddie G.

    And here’s why I think MS should not only be kept at arms length, but treated like “Patient Zero” when it comes to allowing them into our inner circles:

    http://techrights.org/2016/03/10/charm-offensives-distract/

    As far as I’m concerned, I will not be using, supporting, promoting or recommending ANY Microsoft products, no matter WHAT they decide to “offer” to the Open Source Community…(as “bait” maybe?…LoL!)

  • Mike S.

    @Eddie G.
    Agreed.

    A while back I defended Microsoft’s release of the .NET and Chakra Javascript engine under an open source license because they accompanied the software with a patent license grant. I thought that those individual moves were good from an otherwise anti-free software business.

    But someone else pointed out that the patent license grant contained an escape hatch. They prevent Microsoft from suing a user of the code for patent infringement, but they specifically do not prevent Microsoft from selling or licensing the patents to another company and allowing that company to file a patent infringement lawsuit.

    Knowing Microsoft, that’s not an escape hatch. It’s a Trojan Horse. As long as they love open source with one hand and stab it with the other, they can’t be trusted.