Microsoft is porting SQL Server, one of the most popular pieces of database software and a crown jewel of Microsoft's enterprise software empire, on to Linux - following through on its love for the open source operating system Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella extolled in late 2014.

The company plans to have SQL Server available for Linux by the middle of 2017, Microsoft Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie said. The goal is to provide a consistent data platform across both Windows and Linux.

SQL Server for Linux will carry key features that users expect from the server software, including a Stretch Database service that lets administrators send data from on-premises servers to the Azure cloud for storage while keeping it accessible for applications that query a particular database table.

"This is an enormously important decision for Microsoft, allowing it to offer its well-known and trusted database to an expanded set of customers," IDC analyst Al Gillen said. "By taking this key product to Linux, Microsoft is proving its commitment to being a cross-platform solution provider."

The company is rolling out a private beta test of the software with the core relational database components of SQL Server. It's unclear when the public will be able to try SQL Server on Linux.

All of this comes as Microsoft has sent out its first release candidate beta for SQL Server 2016 on Windows, too.