Announcing the Modern Servicing Model for SQL Server

Background to SQL Server servicing

Historically, we have released Cumulative Updates (CUs) every 2 months after a major version is released, and roughly yearly Service Packs (SPs), containing fixes from all previous CUs, plus any feature completeness or supportability enhancements that may require localization. You can read more about the SQL Server Incremental Servicing Model (ISM) here.

Up to and including SQL Server 2016, RTM and any subsequent SPs establish a new product baseline. For each new baseline, CUs are provided for roughly 12 months after the next SP releases, or at the end of the mainstream phase of product lifecycle, whichever comes first.

For the entire product lifecycle, we release General Distribution Releases (GDRs) when needed, containing only security related fixes.

The Modern Servicing Model

Starting with SQL Server 2017, we are adopting a simplified, predictable mainstream servicing lifecycle:

  • SPs will no longer be made available. Only CUs, and GDRs when needed.
  • CUs will now accommodate localized content, allowing new feature completeness and supportability enhancements to be delivered faster.
  • CUs will be delivered more often at first and then less frequently. Every month for the first 12 months, and every quarter for the remainder 4 years of the full 5-year mainstream lifecycle.
  • CUs are delivered on the same week of the month: week of 3rd Tuesday.

Note: the Modern Servicing Model (MSM) only applies to SQL Server 2017 and future versions.

Servicing lifecycle

The servicing lifecycle is unchanged from SQL Server 2016:

  • Years 0-5 (Mainstream Support): Security and Functional issue resolution though 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 (no scope change).

FAQ

Having questions is expected. Please read below in case we have already covered it in this FAQ.

Q1: SPs were fully localized, and you released one update file for every supported language. How will this be handled with no SPs?
A1: CUs will be localized starting with SQL 2017. CUs will handle this requirement maintaining a single update file.

Q2: When we upgraded from a previous version of SQL Server, we did so at SP1 using slipstream media provided by Microsoft. How will this work with no SPs?
A2: We will provide CU based slipstream media for CU12 allowing for this.

Q3: My company always waited for SP1 to perform an upgrade from a previous version. What are my options now?
A3: Even before GA, the final SQL Server 2016 CTP versions were considered production-ready having gone through exhaustive testing both internally and with many preview customers. So there is no need to wait for an SP to install the latest SQL Server – you can install confidently as soon as a given version goes GA.
With that, you can still target any CU for Upgrade. For example, you could target CU12 for upgrade, and have slipstream media available.

Q4: I service an instance only with GDRs. I do not apply CUs, but apply SPs. Will I need to move to a CU servicing train if I need a non-critical/security fix?
A4: Yes. While this was previously true only leading up to SPs, now you must apply latest CU and there will not be an opportunity to reset back to receiving GDR updates only.

Q5: Assume that after Mainstream Support, you release a security fix. Are these going to be GDRs only? If so, how can I install it, if I’m already on a CU servicing train?
A5: During Extended Support, we will release GDRs and GDR-CUs separately. The same is valid for customers that purchase the additional Premium Assurance.

Q6: Previously, once SP2 was released (for example), if I was on the RTM baseline I would have to upgrade to SP1 or SP2 to get a hotfix. How will this work now?
A6: The only baseline will be RTM, and it will receive CUs for 5 years. There are no upgrades to an SP to receive CUs, or worry about which baseline a CU applies to.

Q7: If I am on RTM baseline, and CU20 (for example) was just released, will I receive technical support?
A7: This may be handled on a case by case basis. If the issue/question is in an area that has received a significant number of updates throughout the years, you may be asked to update to a later CU, yes.

Q8: Will SQL Server on Linux receive CUs and GDRs as well?
A8: Yes, every CU and GDR will have corresponding updates to all current Linux platforms.

Q9: Will CU and GDR KB articles then cover both SQL Server on Windows and Linux?
A9: Yes. Issues addressed in each release will be categorized by impacted platform(s).

Q10: Will SQL Server for Linux CUs and GDRs be updates to an existing installation like SQL Server on Windows?
A10: No, SQL Server on Linux updates will completely replace all binaries in the existing installation.

Q11: On SQL Server on Linux, can I remove an update?
A11: Yes, however this operation is performed by re-installing any desired previous servicing level package.

Q12: Will the testing and resulting quality levels of CUs be the same as SPs?
A12: Yes. CUs for all versions of SQL Server are tested to the same levels of Service Packs. As announced in January 2016, you should plan to install a CU with the same level of confidence you plan to install SPs as they are released. You can read more about that here.

Q13: Monthly CU releases are fast, I do not believe my business can keep pace with this, yet you have been proactively encouraging customers to stay current.
A13: Yes, the cadence is fast for the first 12 months. However, payload will be roughly 50% in theory, so these should be easier to consume. Of course, you still have the option to install every other CU for example, for the first 12 months. As the name suggests, all CUs are cumulative.

Q14: Why release CUs every month only for the first year, then move to quarterly updates for the remaining 4 years?
A14: Data shows that the vast majority of all hotfixes issued for a major release occurs in the first 12 months. The monthly cadence brings these fixes to customers much faster when it has the most impact. Reducing to quarterly updates reduces customer and operational overhead the course of the remaining 4 years.

Q15: Will the availability of CUs remain unchanged?
A15: For SQL Server on Windows CUs, no changes are planned. The most recent CU will be available on the Download Center, Windows Catalog, and WSUS. Previous CUs will be available in the Windows Catalog.

Q16: Where will I look for SQL Server on Linux CUs and GDRs?
A16: All updates, current and previous, will be maintained and available in repositories.

Q17: I see that Reporting Services (SSRS) is no longer installed by Setup. Where is it and how will it be serviced?
A17: RS is available for download via a link in Setup. Servicing will be independent moving forward.

Q18: Will the Modern Servicing Model be adopted only for SQL Server 2017 (and later)?
A18: Yes, the Modern Servicing Model (MSM) only applies to SQL Server 2017 and future versions.