SQL Server ’05 Slated For Service Pack 3

When it comes to computer technology, the public’s eye is always focused on what’s new and what comes next.

Take Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) SQL Server 2008. The long-awaited update to SQL Server 2005 is already late, and is currently scheduled for a third quarter delivery.

The workaday reality is that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of copies of SQL Server 2005 are running in datacenters worldwide. That software needs to be kept up to date with the latest bug fixes, if nothing else.

A senior Microsoft official this week announced that, at customers’ insistence, the SQL Server team is already working on Service Pack 3 (SP3) for SQL Server 2005, with a plan for release later this year.

“We’ve heard feedback from customers of the need for a third service pack for SQL Server 2005,” Francois Ajenstat, director of SQL Server product management, said in a post on Microsoft’s “The Data Platform Insider” blog Tuesday. “I’m happy to inform you that we will in fact deliver an SP3 following the release to manufacturing of SQL Server 2008. Our goal is to get SP3 released in the market in CY2008,” he added.

In the meantime, Microsoft this week also released its seventh “cumulative update” for SQL Server 2005 in a little more than a year.

Over the past 14 months since the previous service pack shipped, the SQL Server team has taken a cue from Microsoft’s Security Response Center by releasing so-called “cumulative updates” on a regular eight-week cycle. That makes fixing bugs a more predictable and more easily scheduled process for administrators.

True to its name, each cumulative update contains all the previous patches and hotfixes that have come out for SQL Server 2005 since the last cumulative update shipped — functioning like a mini-service pack. (Cumulative Update 6 will be shipped in February.) All a system administrator needs to do is install the most recent release in order to get up to date with all the previous patches.

Each service pack, in turn, rolls up all of the cumulative updates that have been released to that date, including the previous service pack. Service packs are not “sexy” in a technology sense, however. The majority of service packs do not add cool new features, but instead merely patch verified bugs.

Microsoft recommends, however, that only customers with a specific problem that is fixed by the new cumulative update install it. Others, Microsoft recommends, should wait until the release of SP3.

Cumulative Update 7 includes hotfixes for 39 bugs, all of them very technical. For instance, one patch fixes a condition where the CPU usage “increases to 100 percent when you use SQL Server 2005 on a multiprocessor computer that uses NUMA architecture,” documentation for the update said.

Microsoft has posted further information on Cumulative Update 7 for SQL Server 2005 SP2 here. SQL Server 2005 SP2 shipped in February 2007.

A Microsoft spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

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