SQL Server, Microsoft’s flagship relational database product, is now available on Linux in the form of an early private preview, with a full launch planned for mid-2017.

This is the first time that Microsoft has let SQL Server run on a platform other than Windows-it’s a notable shift that means Microsoft is now prioritizing the sale of its database software over the sale of the operating system running beneath it.

Until now, SQL Server was strictly a Windows product, but as Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s executive vice president of its cloud and enterprise group, writes today, the company has decided that it’s time to bring it to Linux as well.

“SQL Server on Linux will provide customers with even more flexibility in their data solution,” Guthrie writes. “One with mission-critical performance, industry-leading TCO, best-in-class security, and hybrid cloud innovations – like Stretch Database which lets customers access their data on-premises and in the cloud whenever they want at low cost – all built in.”

Microsoft says it plans to open up access to SQL Server on Linux as it gets closer to general availability.

SQL Server is available in a “preview” version on Linux today, with a full release planned for the middle of 2017. IDC’s enterprise infrastructure VP, Al Gillen, explains on Microsoft’s blog exactly why it’s making this move: “This gives customers choice and reduces the concerns for lock-in,” he says. “We would expect this will also accelerate the overall adoption of SQL Server.”

Today’s announcement also fits into Microsoft’s overall emphasis on hybrid deployments. Microsoft already runs Linux in its cloud and recently announced a major partnership with Red Hat, for example. If it wants SQL Server to remain relevant, it needs to bring it to more platforms – including those that it previously regarded as competitors. On Linux, after all, products like MySQL, MariaDB and PostgreSQL are also vying for a very similar slice of the market.