Changes to Service Packs and Cumulative Updates for SQL Server 2017

For a few years now, Microsoft has augmented its irregular release of Service Packs with a more frequent Cumulative Update model, in order to get bug fixes and other improvements to customers faster.

With SQL Server 2017, which runs on both Linux and Windows (as well as Docker containers for Linux, Windows and macOS), the service pack model is outmoded.

Just as you now expect to see regular app updates on your mobile devices, SQL Server 2017 introduces the following rapid servicing model:

  • Service Packs are gone. You will never see this nomenclature again for SQL Server. There are only Cumulative Updates (CUs). Just as before, every new CU will contain all the fixes from previous CUs, so you only need to download the latest one to be up to date. This is similar to the current model, except there won’t also be a latest Service Pack to worry about.
  • For the first twelve months after the product is GA (generally available), SQL Server will have a Cumulative Update every month, containing the latest fixes and improvements.
  • After the first twelve months, the release cadence will drop to quarterly for the next four years of mainstream support, unless there is an important security fix that needs to be deployed. For previous versions of SQL Server, up to and including SQL Server 2016, CUs were released every two months, so this new schedule gives more time for testing a CU once it’s released.
  • Every twelve months after GA, the installation files will be updated to contain all the Cumulative Updates in what is effectively now a service pack, but won’t be called that. This will also become the slipstream update. In other words, you’re more likely to be up to date when installing from scratch, later in the release cycle.
  • Customers on the GDR (General Distribution Release) release cycle will only get important security and corruption fixes, as before. You can switch to the standard CU release cadence any time, but once you do, you can’t switch back to GDR.
  • You will not be required to install Cumulative Updates immediately, or at all if you don’t want to install them. This is different to previous versions where once a Service Pack was released, it made prior builds unsupported. However, it is highly recommended to update once you’ve tested the latest CU.

If you have any questions or comments about this new servicing model, look me up on Twitter at @bornsql.

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