Microsoft has had early access programs for years. I worked at a few companies that were a part of the TAP (Technology Adoption Program) program, and we would get access to code early in exchange for providing feedback and working closely with Microsoft engineers. This was interesting, as well as good and bad. We could move early to implement new features, but we also had the struggles of dealing with code that wasn’t always working as expected.
Microsoft has stared a new program, the SQL Server Early Adoption Program (SQL EAP) to allow companies interested in moving to SQL Server v.Next as soon as possible. I suspect lots of ISVs that might want to build products for SQL Server on Linux might get involved, but there will also be some large corporations that want to influence the platform and get certain features changed or prioritized. The benefits note that participants can come to the SQL CAT team lab to test things, work with product managers, and get separate support if they go into production. For companies that might feel the next version provides some new benefits,
Microsoft gets all sorts of feedback, but working with a small group of product managers or engineers is a good way to get your voice heard above others. I know that MVPs get the chance to exert similar influence, and at times this can be valuable. However, one has to keep in mind that this is the chance to voice opinions and thoughts, not votes. Microsoft isn’t necessarily going to implement something you want just because you convinced some engineers it’s a good idea.
Getting into the program does mean that your are bound by an NDA, and that you may have a separate EULA for production workloads. However, if your company likes being on the bleeding edge, and wants the chance to upgrade early, perhaps you should consider applying. I would say that participation in the TAP program was a beneficial experience for my employers. Perhaps the SQL EAP will be for you as well.