Want a Service Pack? Ask for it!

32 Comments

Service pack 2 for SQL Server 2005 is already 11 months old. And there is still no sign of service pack 3 on the horizon. Why is that? Has Microsoft managed to release a perfect, completely bug-free product? No, of course not – with the size and complexity of a product such as SQL Server is, that will simply never happen.

There have, in fact, enormous numbers of bugs been uncovered and fixed since SP2 was released. And roughly once every two months, a so-called “cumulative update package” gets released. The last one is officially called “Cumulative update package 5 for SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2”, or simply CU5 for friends. Quite a mouthful. But if you think that name is long, check out the list of bugs that CU5 fixes!

I think that it’s great that Microsoft now releases these cumulative update packages at regular intervals. I see them as a good addition that nicely fits in between hot-fixes for quick fixes with limited testing, only for those needing it, on one side, and fully tested service packs that are released once or at most twice per year on the other side.

Given the long list of bugs fixed in CU5, should everyone be recommended to install it, just as if it were a service pack? Well, no. Microsoft themselves advise against this. In fact, you can’t even just download and install the package; you have to “submit a request to Microsoft Online Customer Services to obtain the cumulative update package”. This quote comes directly from the Knowledge Base article for CU5, as come these further disclaimers:

“it is intended to correct only the problems that are described in this article. Apply it only to systems that are experiencing these specific problems”

“if you are not severely affected by any of these problems, we recommend that you wait for the next SQL Server 2005 service pack that contains the hotfixes in this cumulative update package”

These quotes, which have been in the same or a similar form in all cumulative updates, make it pretty clear that I should wait for the next service pack. So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. And then, some MVP’s got impatient and suggested (in the MVP newsgroup) to release SP3 as soon as possible. The answer surprised me – apparently, Microsoft has no plans yet to release a new service pack, because not enough customers have asked for it. (MS: “Good, but honestly, at least our management says, we’re not getting feedback requesting SP3 from enough customers to require it” – Me: “Is that reason under NDA? Because if it’s not, I can post a blog entry supporting people to write MS management asking for SP3” – MS: “As far as I know that’s a public response”). So, the KB article says to wait, all customers do as asked and then Microsoft concludes that nobody wants a service pack because nobody asks for it? And I misunderstood when I thought that “any hotfix that is provided in a SQL Server service pack is included in the next SQL Server service pack” implies that there will actually be a next service pack. Apparently, my graps of the English language is not as good as I’d like to believe…

Anyway, I now understand that Microsoft will only release a new service pack if enough people ask for it. So I’ve decided to make sure that they get the message. I’ve gone to Connect and filed a suggestion to release Service Pack for SQL Server 2005, including all changes up to and including CU5.

If you read this, and you agree with me that Service Pack 3 for SQL Server 2005 is overdue, you now know what to do – log in to Connect and vote 5 for my suggestion. And if you think that I’m losing my marbles and that there should be no Service Pack 3, then you should log in to Connect and vote 1. In short: make yourself heard!

Microsoft will not release service pack 3 because insufficient customer are asking for it? Well, I’m asking – can we have service pack 3, please? Pretty please? Pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty please????

With sugar on top…

Bin packing part 3: Need for speed
Let’s deprecate UPDATE FROM!

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32 Comments. Leave new

you got my vote

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Hugo Kornelis
February 1, 2008 23:24

Just commenting to my own post here to let you all know that fellow MVP Steve Jones, editor of SQLServerCentral.com, has apparently picked up on the same issue. He posted an editorial about this at http://www.sqlservercentral.com/articles/Editorial/62105/, and there have been many replies, almost all in favor of releasing service pack 3 – you can read them at http://www.sqlservercentral.com/Forums/Topic450304-263-1.aspx (registration might be required).

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Hugo Kornelis
February 1, 2008 23:31

Thanks for the heads up, Denis; the URL is now changed.

Also, thanks for the vote!

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Hugo, maybe after the SP2/SP2A debacle they are scared to release another service pack  😉

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Voted.

We’ve actually just been discussing this at work.  We want to update as I suspect some of the patches may help us but since we haven’t run into any show-stoppers we haven’t.

Their reasoning just seems … odd …

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cinahcaM madA
February 2, 2008 01:17

Anyone know why the CUs can’t be freely downloaded anymore?  CU1-CU4 were previously available, without contacting anyone.  I don’t know about CU5.  But as of now, ALL OF THEM are locked down.  Extremely annoying!

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Adam,

Were you part of some secret society?  Every time I’ve looked at the CU’s they’ve been locked down (even pre-5).  Granted, I never spent much time pursuing them so I may have missed something.

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>Were you part of some secret society?

SQL Illuminati?

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Hugo Kornelis
February 2, 2008 02:14

Hi Adam,

Like Pam, I’ve never seen anything other than "call us, then we might give you access to these precious bits" verbiage. You must have been priviledged…

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I echo your concerns, with these specific observations:

 Since when have past software maintenance levels been determined by popularity?  Issues like this are not and should not be a matter of opinion polls or requests.  Customers shouldn’t have to ask permission for software maintenance to be provided on a timely basis.  I don’t mind voting to get their attention, to fix a broken process.  The problem is how the process got broken and Microsoft’s willingness to acknowledge the issues and fix the process for good (not just for SP3, but ongoing as a policy).
 Per Adam’s note: SQL 2000 also had CUs, but they were generally accessible after a reasonable maturity / "bake-in" period (my term – just an observation – not sure if it was Microsoft policy or not).  So SQL customers could judge for themselves when a given CU was mature / "baked" / ready (based on forum feedback, etc.) and apply to keep current (without having to get special permission to even get the CU).

This same process seemed to be in place for SQL 2005 through RTM, SP1, and SP2 CU1.  All later CUs for SP2 (CU2 and on) have been "locked down" (requiring special permission to even download them, much less use them – with the same caveat "not as thoroughly tested as an SP").  This seems to be an unstated Microsoft policy change to me (in addition to the long delay for SQL 2005 SP3).

I understand that CUs are treated as "less tested" than an SP, and therefore are almost "apply at your own risk, and don’t use if not needed" (not quite, but almost!).  My concern is that important fixes (security, key functional defects, etc.) may not be getting corrected in production environments for a number of reasons (the less accessibility of the CUs with the lock-down, the lack of forum feedback on CUs because of the lockdown, the lack of a more-tested SP (can anyone say SP3?), etc.).  It is a vicious cycle.  It is also counter to Microsoft’s past commitment to promptly and thoroughly addressing security issues.

I understand the importance of getting a new product version (SQL 2008) out the door, but it should not come at a cost of diminished support levels and policies on existing "supported versions".

 I have also heard arguments by some that SPs (and by implication, CUs and individual hot fixes) shouldn’t be a worry point – just use Windows Update / whatever to keep your products up-to-date.  At times, this position was also made for not waiting for SP1 of a given product as a maturity point (commonly done at many sites) because you can get the in-beween-SP maintenance stream through automated means.  Most of us would agree this is an ideal but very naive view of the issues.  If hot fixes and CUs are not as thoroughly tested as SPs, then you haven’t solved that problem, and the maturity issues remain – no matter how the software maintenance is packaged or delivered.  If Microsoft chooses to offer hot fixes and CUs that are tested at comparable or better levels as SPs are currently tested, then maybe we are getting closer to a solution.  We still need to have change management processes in place that allow a controlled migration of software maintenance (in whatever form – hot fixes, CUs, or SPs) through a set of staged environments at customer sites (and not the "open the flood gates" approach – lacking change management and control points – that the idealists seem to imply).

Bottom line: Software maintenance publication and packaging must be timely, tested, and accessible to be useful.  Unstated policy changes have made that position worse for SQL Server 2005 SP2 than in prior versions and maintenance levels.  It would be beneficial to have a documented software maintenance policy from Microsoft that meets the stated needs, including timeliness, level of testing, support, and availability without "permission slips".

Just my 2 cents.  Let’s hear yours!

Scott R.

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Derek Comingore
February 2, 2008 20:24

You have my vote!

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Alex Kuznetsov
February 3, 2008 00:04

Hugo, you got my vote.

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Neal Waterstreet
February 3, 2008 04:09

I voted too. I’m a bit surprised/disappointed that the SPs work this way.

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Hi Hugo

You got my vote as well

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Vote++

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AaronBertrand
February 3, 2008 20:13

The CUs have always been "locked down" for me, too.  Of course, having the contacts that we do, "locked down" is a very relative term, it essentially meant two more clicks, typing a sentence, and then a third click.  🙂

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Voted

but whether I trust the SP3 after the SP2 chaos is a different story

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Why couldn’t they make CU6 the SP3?

Chris

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Hugo Kornelis
February 4, 2008 19:57

@Chris:

>Why couldn’t they make CU6 the SP3? <<

A Service Pack gets much more testing than a CU. I guess that’s the reason they don’t want everyone to install the CU’s – to much risk of new or regression bugs biting tooo many customers.

I’d much rather have them put some time, people, and capacity asiide now and start giving CU5 the testing they normally use for SP’s – then relabel CU5 as SP3 and publish (after fixing the bugs found in this more rigorous testing of course).

I guess that, if they decide to devote the time and caacity to it, it should be possible to have a CTP version of SP3 out within a month, and the official version one or two months after that.

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Hugo,

I just thought of using CU6 as the start point rather than CU5. As you mentioned it would then have more complete testing and would come out in an April/May time frame rather than February.

Chris

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Chuck Heinzelman
February 4, 2008 23:20

I’ve requested and received CUs in the past, but I’ve had problems getting the right platform version.  I request the IA64 version, but they send me the x64 version.  The only way that I could get the IA64 version was to ask for every platform.

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Hugo Kornelis
February 5, 2008 00:54

@Chris: Fair enough. I still prefer them to start working on SP3 (based on CU5) rather than wait, but I see your point – and I’d be happy with ANY service pack at the moment!

@Chuck: Another good reason to ask for service packs – once the bits are on a public download page, you’ve only got yourself to blame if you get the wrong version 🙂

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Count my vote too!

Keeping in mind about SP2 blurb, fingers crossed that it won’t be repeated!

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Hugo,

There is a reference, dated Jan 31/2008, in bug 264653 to SP3. So maybe it is coming soon! How many approvals for your bug 326575 do you think you need? It is well over 100 now!

Chris

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Hugo,

Here is a reason to start at CU6: – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/948525/en-us

How does this happen so far into an SQL release?

Chris

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It has been almost 4 years since XP sp2, (August 25, 2004), release XP service pack 3 instead of SQL Server SP3.    Shouldn’t there be a patch rollup or sP3 when the number of patches is > 100?

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Hugo…do you think there might be a chance in the next SP to fix the UPDATE..FROM issues with the INSTEAD OF UPDATE triggers?

That is just killing me. Now without that I’m having to maintain two separate set of tables with FOR triggers. UGH!!!

Or is Microsoft just going to ignore us on that one…with a "will consider for a future release?"

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Yes, it’s time to give us SVP3. You have my vote. I don’t want a buggy DBMS for ever…or should i switch to Oracle 😉

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Can anyone recomend me a good book for a SQL beginer. I have instaled SQL 2005 Developer editin. Earler I have been working with Access db`s.

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You allso have my vote.

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My 2 cents…..regression testing is time and resource consuming.  Perhaps more focus and emphasis was placed on the 2008 release rather than cleaning up 2005?

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