RESEARCH@DBTA: Survey Shows SQL Server is No Longer Just a Windows Play

Just a few years ago, no one would have imagined running their SQL Server databases on anything other than Windows Server. Now, with companies requiring data-driven capabilities for a range of needs, the idea of running SQL Server on a non-Windows platform has become almost commonplace—whether on open-source operating systems or in the cloud.

That’s the word from a recent survey conducted among members of the PASS user group by Unisphere Research, a division of Information Today, Inc., in partnership with Red Hat. The study, involving 249 IT leaders and data professionals, finds more SQL Server data and infrastructure is moving to cloud or Linux. At the same time, Linux skills are on the rise, but lack of certain skills continue to dominate as the leading roadblock to Linux deployments.

Emerging and game-changing technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are shaping the future for forward-looking businesses. At the core of these initiatives are SQL Server databases—bolstered by capabilities enabled through the world’s two most powerful operating systems—Linux and Windows—leveraging the immense scalability of cloud.

Soon, most SQL Server data will be in the cloud, the survey showed. On average, a majority of SQL Server data, 56%, is projected to move to the cloud within the next two years—up from 38% at the present time. 

Three out of four data managers are considering Linux for their SQL Server instances. Lower cost and avoiding lock-in are seen as advantages of SQL Server on Linux. Still, standardization, fear, and concern about skills continue to inhibit migrations of SQL Server to Linux.

The survey finds wide awareness that SQL Server is now deployable on Linux—cited by close to nine in 10 data managers and professionals. Even more telling, 75% would at least consider running their databases on Linux, up from 68% a year ago. For close to three in ten, this migration is a certainty. 

Lower cost and avoiding lock-in are seen as advantages of SQL Server on Linux. In line with the drivers for the overall platform choices noted above, costs and performance are the leading benefits seen with running SQL Server on Linux. In addition, moving to Linux is seen as a way to avoid vendor lock-in, often a deal-breaker for many migration discussions. Data managers also see Linux as a highly secure operating system.

Lack of skills continue to dominate as the leading roadblock to Linux deployments. Close to seven in ten respondents cite the need for Linux skills as the leading challenge to running SQL Server on Linux—in line with last year’s assessment. Compatibility between applications being considered for migration may also hold up migrations. Interestingly, there is far less concern about the availability of appropriate tools between the platforms, dropping from 37% a year ago to 18% in the current survey.

The portability of data and associated applications is also another major trend found in the survey. Along with cloud, container technology is making its mark on segments of the SQL Server world. In total, 16% report that a significant share of their data (25% or more of their data stores) is now deployed. This number is expected to grow to 31% over the next two years.  Container adoption among a significant share of companies almost tripled over the past year, from 6% to 16%. Similarly, the percentage with significant portions of virtualized SQL Server data (again, 25% or more) is also expected to rise, from 56% of organizations currently to 77% within two years.