Remember when Steve Ballmer likened Linux to cancer, and the notion of Microsoft courting the open source crowd was virtually unimaginable? The company has come a long, long way since then. Microsoft has unveiled a version of SQL Server, a flagship database program, for Linux. That's right -- you can get a major Microsoft data center app without having to touch Windows. The company is even working with the creators of key Linux distributions (such as Red Hat and Ubuntu maker Canonical) to get the program running smoothly. SQL Server for Linux won't officially ship until mid-2017, but there's already a preview for corporations that want a peek.
If you've been following along in recent years, the release isn't that much of a shock. Microsoft has been much more willing to support competing operating systems under CEO Satya Nadella, who was quick to acknowledge that Windows was no longer the center of the computing universe. Its Azure cloud service is explicitly Linux-friendly, for example, and many of Microsoft's mobile apps arrive on Android (itself Linux-based) and iOS before they reach Windows phones.
As the executive tells the New York Times, this is all about "market expansion." Microsoft would rather corner the server software space, which has been shifting toward Linux, than insist on a Windows-only policy out of stubborn pride. It's tough to know if the Linux server crowd will warm up to its longtime arch-rival, but those more open-minded firms are now free to integrate Microsoft without making a wholesale switch.