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SQL Server Cumulative Update Patch Policy Gets Tweaked

The SQL Server engineering team provided some advice for IT when installing the cumulative updates.

IT pros should treat Microsoft's SQL Server cumulative updates in the same way as they treat SQL Server service packs, the team indicated late last month. Essentially, that means IT pros should install SQL Server cumulative updates when they become available. Here's how the team explained its point:

We now recommend ongoing, proactive installation of CU's as they become available. You should plan to install a CU with the same level of confidence you plan to install SPs (Service Packs) as they are released.

Service packs establish new service baselines for Microsoft's servers. While IT pros typically pay attention to service packs, many have adopted the practice of only applying cumulative updates when the computing environment has the particular problem described by Microsoft. That bit of IT pro wisdom, derived from Microsoft's own advice, is getting scrapped -- at least in the case of keeping SQL Server patched.

SQL Server cumulative updates now are "certified and tested to the level of SPs (Service Packs)," the team explained. They aren't just "simple quick hotfixes anymore" for a particular issue. Instead, they "may contain supportability, logging, and reliability updates."

Microsoft is also changing how it distributes its SQL Server cumulative updates. It now just posts the latest ones at its download page. If IT pros want access to earlier cumulative update releases, then they will have to go to the Windows Update Catalog to get them, although that's a future addition to come.

Microsoft will still place "interim CU 'on-demand' fixes" on its hotfix server, though.

Microsoft is even considering the next step to accentuate the importance of cumulative updates for SQL Server. It's considering pushing down cumulative updates to organizations by distributing them through the Microsoft Update service as "optional updates."

"We are also evaluating offering the latest CU as an Optional update on Microsoft Update, just like Service Packs today," the team explained.

The SQL Server team thus appears to be taking an even more aggressive approach to cumulative updates than Microsoft's Exchange Server team. The Exchange team typically tells the story that organizations running hybrid networks are "required" to keep up with cumulative updates, mostly because of a need to coordinate the changes that occur between the Exchange Online service and Exchange Server on premises.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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