Recently, because of customer requests, Microsoft announced that SP4 for SQL Server 2005 would be released by the end of the calendar year 2010. It was also announced that SP2 for SQL Server 2008 would be released earlier in Q3 2010. To Microsoft’s credit, all is going according to plan. SQL Server 2008 R2 is due out in Q2 2010 as a functional release including Multi-Server Management and Self-Service Business Intelligence. However, not everyone is on the cutting edge. It will be a relief to see SP4 for 2005. You see, SP3 was released way back in Dec 2008…that’s about 2 years between Service Packs…
Microsoft has developed a sound strategy for issuing updates to SQL Server. It’s called the ISM or Incremental Servicing Model. When a bug is fixed, a hotfix is issued. Periodically, cumulative updates (CUs) are issued which include all hotfixes since the last service pack. Service Packs are tested as a whole and usually go through some sort of Beta or CTP (“Community Technology Preview”) release to involve customer feedback so there’s a higher level of confidence applying them. We are now up to CU 7 for SQL Server 2005 SP3. So we can install SQL 2005, then SP3, then CU 7 to get to the latest build for 2005. I wish Microsoft would support slipstreaming with SQL Server 2005 so we could perform a single install to get to a certain baseline. Maybe with SP4? Thankfully, SQL Server 2008 SP1 now supports slipstreaming. But we still have to apply the latest CU 6 for that service pack. Confused? Imagine how the developers feel.
In the notes on “How to obtain Cumulative Update 7 for SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 3” it states that “if you are not severely affected by any of these problems, we recommend that you wait for the next SQL Server 2005 service pack”. The typical CU cycle is 8 weeks. That means we might be up to CU13 before SP4 arrives. That’s a long time and lot of fixes to be waiting for. But if you have to stick with SQL Server 2005, at least you’ll have an early Christmas present from Microsoft SQL Server Release Services.