It’s one of the biggest actions yet in the company’s effort to move beyond Windows and comes in an area its executives harshly criticized in the past.

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Microsoft continues to break down the barriers between Windows and everything else.

The company said Monday it plans to release a version of SQL Server, one of its most successful business-software products, for the Linux operating system. The database software had for decades been available only for Microsoft’s Windows.

The move is the latest evidence of a shift in thinking at the Redmond company, whose leaders once harshly criticized Linux and the open-source development model, which allows companies to modify and freely use the software.

These days, Microsoft is more likely to profess its love for Linux, a bid to boost its position among business-technology buyers using the rival software.

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“The prison walls have been breached, and the inmates are going to start coming out,” said Al Gillen, who tracks business technology as a group vice president with researcher IDC. “If Microsoft is willing to port one of their most loved products onto a foreign operating system like Linux, I think the door is open for anything to move.”

For years, Microsoft was known for trying to push developers and business customers to proprietary, Windows-based tools. That strategy fell apart in recent years amid Microsoft’s tiny presence in smartphones, the popularity of Linux-based business tools, and the move from out-of-the-box software to programs accessed via the Web.

Under Chief Executive Satya Nadella, Microsoft has pivoted, in lines of business from its Office productivity suite to developer software and business tools like SQL Server, toward trying to meet customers wherever they are.

In the past two years, Microsoft dropped the “Windows” moniker from its Azure cloud-computing platform, released portions of the code underlying its .NET programming framework into the open-source community and put free versions of Office on rival smartphones.

A preview of SQL Server on Linux became available Monday, Scott Guthrie, the executive vice president in charge of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group, said in a blog post. He said the company expects commercial availability of the software by mid-2017.

The move “fits very well in the world of server and tools at Microsoft where Azure is the platform” instead of Windows, said Wes Miller, a vice president with Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland firm that tracks the company. The ability to run SQL Server on Linux could make customers out of some companies that had ignored Windows, he said.

Microsoft didn’t announce pricing details for the software’s Linux variant.

The move to Linux puts SQL Server, which is designed to help companies store and retrieve vast quantities of information, in a place to better compete with Oracle, IBM and other Microsoft rivals. Those companies’ database software tools already operate on Linux servers.

“When they told me what the plan was (for SQL Server), I was floored,” IDC’s Gillen said. “It’s a reflection of how the industry has changed, and especially a reflection of how Microsoft has changed.”