Why use SQL Server On Linux

TSQL Tuesday #116

TSQL Tuesday is a monthly group of bloggers from the SQL Server Community writing about a specific topic proposed by a member of the community. This month, Tracy Boggiano has suggested a discussion of SQL Server and Linux. More information can be found by clicking the T-SQL Tuesday logo above. Here are my thoughts on this months topic.

As a former Unix DBA in Informix based shops, I was a bit excited when Microsoft announced SQL Server would be available on Linux beginning in late 2017. In early 2018 I started presenting “Introduction to Linux for Windows professionals” at SQL Saturdays. Attendance in these sessions has been low. I feel people just aren’t ready to embrace a new, unfamiliar operating system.

The primary question I get at all these presentations is “Why would I want to use Linux?” In my opinion, there are many reasons to use Linux.

The first reason is availability of support staff. Linux is taught in community colleges and even 4-year institutions that don’t spend like time on Windows. This means finding staff to support your systems may be easier.

Next, installing SQL Server is easy and fast. I’ve probably installed SQL Server on Linux almost 100 times in the past year. It takes less than 5 minutes to download, install, and configure. How long does it take you to do that in Windows now? Just the ISO download can take that long depending on your internet connection.

Third, Linux can apply patches with little or no downtime. In today’s compliance heavy environments, you’ve got to keep up to date with patches. With live patching and quick restarts, this makes it easier to schedule maintenance.

Finally, if a tool is available for using/managing SQL Server on Windows, it either exists in Linux or you can use the tool from Windows to connect to SQL Server on Linux.

Another question I get during these presentations is whether it is better from a financial perspective to run on Linux since it is “free.” My answer is “Don’t use this as a factor in switching.” Although Linux is free, you will want to pay your distribution of choice for maintenance. While you can install server versions of Linux from Red Hat, Canonical (Ubuntu), or SUSE, you do have to pay for maintenance if you want assistance. Steve Rezhener, one of the Organizers of SQL Saturday Los Angeles, did a test in AWS to see what the cost difference would be. He found similarly configured machines saved about $40 per month using Linux over Windows. SQL Server licensing is the same in both environments.

Shameless plug: On Saturday, July 13th, SQL Saturday is happening at St. Edwards University in South Austin. I will be presenting on Linux for Windows Professionals. There will be almost 50 sessions presented across 10 tracks so there’s likely be something of interest. It’s free so come join us.

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