It’s not stable until Service Pack 1…

Are you at a company that doesn’t install a new version of SQL Server until Service Pack 1 (SP1) has been released? Well, you need not wait for SP1 any more.

Because there’s not going to be any more service packs.

Microsoft just announced their “Modern Servicing Module for SQL Server“. The big news is that starting with SQL Server 2017, service packs will no longer be available. Only Cumulative Updates (CU) and General Distribution Releases (GDR).


Historically, Microsoft has released a CU every 2 months after a major version has been released, and approximately every year a SP is released. The SP contains all of the fixes from the previous CUs, plus anything requiring localization (feature completeness, supportability enhancements).

The release of an SP would establish a new product baseline. CUs are provided for 12 months after the next SP releases or until the end of the product’s support lifecycle, whichever occurs first.

A GDR is released when needed, and contains only security related fixes.

The Modern Servicing Model

  • No SPs, only CUs and GDRs.
  • CUs will now have localized content. This will allow new feature completeness and supportability enhancements to be delivered faster.
  • CUs will be delivered every month for the first 12 months, and then quarterly for the next 4 years (which handles the complete 5 year mainstream lifecycle). Microsoft research shows that the vast majority of hotfixes occur during the first year. Releasing monthly allows bringing fixes to customers as quickly as possible, where the impact is the greatest.
  • CUs will be delivered on the 3rd Tuesday of the month.
  • When CU12 is released, slipstream media will be available to install the product with all fixes through CU12.

What about previous versions of SQL Server?

There is nothing to worry about – nothing is being changed for existing versions. Specifically:

  • Years 0-5 (Mainstream Support) – Security and functional issue resolution via CUs. Security issues through GDRs.
  • Years 6-10 (Extended Support): Security or critical functional issues.
  • Years 11-16 (Premium Assurance): Optional paid extension to Extended Support

If you insist on waiting because the RTM release isn’t stable…

If your company has the policy now of waiting for SP1, this is most likely because in the (distant) past, there were issues that weren’t working adequately until SP1. In my opinion, this is no longer the case, and hasn’t been so in quite a while. In recent years, features are being tried out (and fixed) in Azure SQL Database (aka “The Cloud”) for quite some time before the feature makes it into the on-premises release. The features have been stabilized and just don’t have the issues that may have been present years ago.

If you insist on waiting, then wait until CU12. Since the first year has monthly CUs, CU12 will be after a year. SPs were being released approximately yearly, so CU12 will line up with SP1. Furthermore, CU12 will be available via slipstream media so that you don’t have to install all of the CUs after installing the product.

In Conclusion

  • If you have any other questions, the announcement link above has a FAQ section that answers most questions that you would have about this change.
  • Keep in mind that you can’t move back and forth between GDR and CU – once you apply a CU, you are on the CU path. You can only stay on the GDR path if you only apply GDRs. (But seriously – don’t you want the fixes?)
  • You don’t have to install the CUs as they are released – you can use your own cycle. Like every 2 months? Go with that. Or Quarterly. Or twice a year. Whatever works for you. Just please remember to do a full regression test in a testing environment before you apply the changes to production. You do not want to be surprised by something that is now working differently.