Microsoft is trying to lure customers into migrating from other database platforms to SQL Server 2016 by offering free licences. The catch is that customers need to be part of Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing scheme.
The move was detailed at the firm's Data Driven event in New York this week, which kicked off a series of activities intended to build customer interest around SQL Server 2016 ahead of its general availability sometime later this year.
Microsoft's president of North America, Judson Althoff, announced the scheme, which aims to help more customers adopt SQL Server 2016. It is directed at organisations running applications or workloads on non-Microsoft commercial relational database management systems, and offers free SQL Server licences and help to migrate applications.
A glance at the web page where customers can claim their free licences clearly shows Microsoft's chief target. It is headed 'Break free from Oracle' and invites organisations to 'Follow the leader and migrate from Oracle to SQL Server with free licences.'
On the surface, this could be a tempting proposal for many organisations as Microsoft offers support services to kick-start migrations and access to SQL Server Essentials for the Oracle Database Administrator training.
Oracle's licensing has long been a bone of contention for many customers, not just because of high costs but claims that licensing is so complex that it is difficult to understand how many licences are required. Oracle is also often accused of strong-arm customer relations tactics which Specsavers global CIO Phil Pavitt described as a "gun-to-the-head methodology".
However, firms considering such a migration need to consider the implications carefully before signing up. A condition of the offer is that organisations must be signed up for Microsoft's Software Assurance subscription licensing, under which customers pay an annual fee in exchange for the rights to new software releases and support services.
Software Assurance has been criticised for offering poor value in some cases, especially as Microsoft does not guarantee that new versions of products will be delivered in the period covered by the subscription agreement.
There are also additional restrictions. Microsoft has warned that customers must also have a Server and Cloud Enrolment licence for SQL Server.
In other words, any customer that meets the criteria for free SQL Server licences will have already committed to volume licensing of Microsoft products. It is also questionable whether the licences are really 'free' in this case, although customers with Oracle licence agreements may be able to save by switching.
Meanwhile, SQL Server 2016 is expected to be a significant upgrade bringing capabilities such as always encrypted data, expanded support for in-memory database operation, and the ability to take advantage of the increasing prevalence of cloud services in today's IT environment.
"We built SQL Server 2016 for this new world, and to help businesses get ahead of today's disruptions," said Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Data Group.
"It supports hybrid transactional/analytical processing, advanced analytics and machine learning, mobile BI, data integration, always encrypted query processing capabilities and in-memory transactions with persistence.
"It is also perhaps the world's only relational database to be ‘born cloud-first' with the majority of features first deployed and tested in Azure across 22 global data centres and billions of requests per day. It is customer tested and battle ready."
Microsoft also disclosed this week that it is developing a version of SQL Server for Linux. This is due for availability sometime next year, after SQL Server 2016 for Windows ships.
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