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This blog post is also authored by Travis Wright, Principal Program Manager, Microsoft; and Jamie Reding, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft.

A few weeks ago, developers from around the world gathered for the Microsoft Build Conference. It was an amazing display of Microsoft’s products and cloud services to meet the needs of all types of applications. I missed the //build event this year because I found myself in San Francisco at the Red Hat Summit 2018. I can’t even imagine five years ago someone telling me I would represent Microsoft and SQL Server at an open-source based event.

Travis Wright, Jamie Reding, and I travelled to the event to speak and show amazing demos of SQL Server running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and OpenShift. We were part of the Microsoft team attending the event to continue to show the great partnership we have and are building with Red Hat. Get an overview of the Microsoft presence at the summit from Robin Ginn’s blog post.

This was not the first time for Travis or Jamie attending this event. Microsoft demonstrated SQL Server on Linux at the Red Hat Summit 2016. Travis and Jamie both presented at the 2017 Summit for SQL Server on RHEL and Open Shift. I thought it would be interesting to write about our experiences and what we learned at this year’s Summit.

The presentation Travis and I gave on SQL Server was rich with demos. We worked hard on these demos, so we thought why not show everyone, not just the people at the Summit. We have packaged them all on the brand-new SQL Server YouTube channel. I’ve included links to these videos throughout the rest of this blog post.

It’s no longer “Why are you here?”

As the event ended, I asked Jamie and Travis what was one of the key differences between previous Summit events and this year. Travis summarized it as “Customers at the booth have switched from asking us Why are you here? and What is SQL Server? two years ago to specific questions about running SQL Server on RHEL/OpenShift.”

The most common question we received was “How do you install it?” I think I must have demonstrated at our booth 20 or more times the SQL Server deployment experience, along with the great set of tools we have available for SQL Server on Linux including SQL Server Operations Studio and mssql-cli. Check out this video that shows the complete deployment experience on RHEL as well as a survey of our tools. Cross-platform and open-source tools is how we roll these days!

Is it the same as SQL Server on Windows?

Part of the above video shows how to restore a database and connect with SQL Server tools. Linux admins and architects want to be more comfortable with how we integrate with Linux, and I met many folks at the Summit who didn’t know much SQL Server but knew Linux. Many of their colleagues who manage SQL Server in their environment couldn’t attend so they wanted to know if SQL Server is the same as on Windows?

My first answer to this question was “Tell your SQL friends to install SQL Server on Linux, backup their database on Windows, and just restore it on Linux”. Then fire up SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), connect, and start running queries. When I showed this simple experience, it made the Linux folks incredibly happy. They saw our deployment experience aligned with package managers like yum. But they also could tell their SQL Server colleagues “Hey, it’s pretty much just SQL Server”. Since many of them didn’t use Windows, I then showed them SQL Operations Studio and mssql-cli which runs native on Linux and macOS as well as Windows. I heard comments like “Now that is impressive”.

We used these opportunities to talk beyond just the basics. We showed customers how fast SQL Server can be with technologies like Columnstore Indexes. Check out this demo with PowerBi and Columnstore.

We showed new SQL Server 2017 capabilities of intelligence performance like Automatic Tuning powered by Query Store. Check out this demo which includes built in performance telemetry through SQL Server Dynamic Management Views and charting capabilities in SQL Operations Studio.

We also talked about security and authentication. SQL Server supports both SQL Server authentication and integration with Active Directory. Watch this demo of SQL Server connecting with Active Directory Authentication.

What about new capabilities?

One of the most compelling new features of SQL Server 2016 and 2017 is in database Machine Learning Services. Keeping data associated with data science models and projects together with SQL Server provides security, data freshness, and scalability.
While SQL Server 2017 on Linux supports Native Scoring, support for R and Python did not make it into the release. But we are committed to bringing this type of feature for SQL Server on Linux. Check out this demo to see SQL Server on Linux with Python and Native Scoring with a real-world prediction example.

Does it perform?

As we described the architecture of SQL Server on Linux, the first question most people asked us was “Does it perform?”. Sometimes it is always best to answer questions like these with data.

The current top two 1TB TPC-H benchmarks are SQL Server 2017 on Linux 1 2. We talked to customers about how SQL Server can scale from your laptop to the biggest servers in the market. And we especially love showing how fast it can run and scale on enterprise-class machines. Check out this demo where Travis Wright shows how SQL Server in Linux can scan billions of rows and run aggregation functions in seconds on an HPE Superdome computer with 12TB of RAM and 480 CPUs.

How does SQL Server support Containers?

I have come to realize over the last few months how popular containers are spreading. It is fast becoming not just an interest, but part of production implementation plans. SQL Server is ready to be a part of this wave. Deploying in a container itself can be an amazingly easy way to get up to speed fast on SQL Server on Linux. In fact, I brought along my MacBook Pro with me and demonstrated to attendees the SQL Server on Mac challenge. For those who know me in the SQL Server community I’m sure you fell off your chair over this.

Running a single container is interesting, but to run containers in a production environment, you need something bigger. This is where Kubernetes comes in. And this is also where Red Hat’s Kubernetes-based system called OpenShift can make a difference. At the Summit, Microsoft announced a new managed OpenShift service in Azure and SQL Server fits right into this offering. Kubernetes and OpenShift have built-in high availability capabilities with shared persistent storage. SQL Server works well within this model. Try it yourself with this tutorial.

Always on Availability Groups (AG) is the flagship feature for SQL Server High Availability. So, we are working on new capabilities for SQL Server to integrate AGs with environments like OpenShift. Watch this demo to see this in action.

Licensing

One last interesting topic from attendees was around licensing and offers. Attendees wanted to know if SQL Server on Linux licensing were the same as with Windows. First, it is important to know the Editions of SQL Server are the same, I found many attendees did not know this:

  • SQL Server Evaluation – A full-featured version of SQL Server for evaluation only purposes with a 180-time limit.
  • SQL Server Express – A free, entry-level version of SQL Server for learning or building small desktop applications.
  • SQL Server Developer – A full-featured version of SQL Server license only for development and testing.
  • SQL Server Standard – The basic version of SQL Server for departments and small organizations. Limits exist for this edition compared to Enterprise, but many features previously only available in Enterprise are in Standard today.
  • SQL Server Enterprise – The premium version of SQL Server for mission critical and applications that need maximum scalable performance and high-availability.

For a complete breakdown of editions, check out our documentation.

The licensing of these editions is the same as SQL Server on Windows. Licensing for containers was also a big question we saw at the summit and our SQL Server Licensing Guide shows licenses for containers is similar to licensing for virtual machines. There are some unique offers today for customers looking at SQL Server on Linux including Migrating from ORACLE, SQL Server on Linux subscription, and special offer with Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

The experience at the Red Hat Summit for me personally was humbling and rewarding. It is the first time for me to be at a big event where Microsoft was not the central focus. It forced me to work harder explaining to attendees the value of SQL Server on Linux and not assume they already knew SQL Server. I saw a new perspective from customers that want SQL Server to work within the natural ecosystem of Linux, while also not losing the excellent features and tools that have made SQL Server a force in the industry.

We also had an opportunity to meet several engineers from Red Hat. We shared ideas on how to make SQL Server and RHEL a better experience including discussions on performance monitoring and OpenShift.

I look forward to continuing getting the word out and showing off SQL Server on Linux. It was a remarkable achievement to launch last year, but it is the satisfaction of seeing it now in the mainstream of customer conversations that is most rewarding. It is no longer a “what” conversation. It is now a “when” project plan.

Get started with SQL Server on Linux or dive deeper with our free Virtual Academy Training for SQL Server on Linux.