Say Goodbye to Service Packs: SQL Server 2017 Won’t Have Them

Take Your Service Pack and Get Outta Town

Service Packs (SPs) have long been an quick litmus test to determining where you are when assessing needed upgrades. You could almost ignore CUs (Cumulative Updates) and use the SP to define where you are and you needed to go. 2008R2 SP3? You’re pretty much all patched up. 2012 SP1? Got a ways to go. But that’s about to change with SQL Server 2017 as Microsoft is doing away with Service Packs, and just releasing sequential updates as CUs.

In SQL2017 and beyond, every CU will be tested like a Service Pack and contain all the updates, hotfixes and security patches of every CU before it. So we can expect to see versions like SQL Server 2017 CU12.

Well, That’s Nice. But Why?

Microsoft wants to move to a more “agile” method, allowing them to get more updates out faster. Releasing many smaller CUs is faster-to-market and means less patching of odds and ends with hotfixes.

Also, this will just simplify the whole process. Instead of saying 2017 SP3 CU2, it will simply be 2017 CU26 (I just made these up. I am not clairvoyant now, but I will be in the future).

There will be two tracks for updates, the main CU path and a GDR (General Distribution Release) path. GDR path is just security updates (maybe a system-breaking hotfix once in a while). This path will be entirely separate from the normal CU path and you will not be able to jump back and forth between them*.

When Will I Get These CUs?

2012/2014/2016 are all still on the old model. Starting with SQL Server 2017 you’ll see this new servicing model.  After RTM, SQL2017 will get a new CU every month for the first year, but will slow down after that. Microsoft’s reasoning is that most of the major fixes are in the first year, so they want to keep ’em coming during this critical phase. For the remainder of the four years of mainstream support, this pace will slow to one CU every quarter.

If you’re on Linux, it’s the same deal. You’ll be able to pull these CUs from the same repositories that you get SQL Server from. This is kind of a big ‘duh’ but I felt it need mentioning.

Anything Else?

Sure there is! Lots of odds and ends for you to know. Like:

  • CUs will accommodate localized content (they didn’t before)
  • CUs will still be released the same time every month
    • That’s the week of the 3rd Tuesday, but you knew that
  • You don’t have to be on a specific CU to be supported.
  • CUs will not contain any “net new” features.
  • CUs can be uninstalled from Windows
  • In Linux, install and run the container from a previous CU to do a rollback

And that’s it. Happy patching!

-CJ Julius

*You can go from the GDR path to the CU path, but not back again. Once you’re on the CU path, you’re there for good.