Announcing Updates to the Modern Servicing Model for SQL Server

On September 28, 2017 we announced the Modern Servicing Model for SQL ServerIn that announcement, we made reference to two changes in SQL Server 2017 servicing:

  1. SQL Server 2017 Cumulative Updates (CU) will be released monthly for the 1st year, and quarterly from then on during Mainstream support phase
  2. CU Slipstream Media, similar to previous SQL Server version Service Pack (SP) Slipstream media, will be provided for SQL Server 2017 CU12

Changes we are announcing today: 

  1. Starting with SQL Server 2017, Cumulative Updates released after the first year will have a bi-monthly cadence (every other month), rather than quarterly cadence.
  2. Slipstream media will NOT be provided with CU12

Note that the Modern Servicing Model for SQL Server also applies to recently announced SQL Server 2019, and future SQL Server versions, unless specifically stated otherwise.

In Detail:

CUs will move to a bi-monthly (every other month) release cadence starting with CU13 on 12/18/2018

This decision was made after careful analysis of recent CU content.  As noted in the announcement above, historical data shows that the vast majority, and severity, of all hotfixes issued for a major release occur in the first 12 months. After that, data shows the number and severity of hotfixes delivered per CU drops off significantly. Looking at SQL Server 2017 CUs, we felt it would be burdensome on customers to have to wait up to 3 months for a hotfix at this time. We may reevaluate moving to quarterly CUs at year 3 of mainstream support.

Slipstream media will NOT be provided for SQL Server 2017 CU12, or any subsequent CU

This decision was made after evaluating the inherent risk involving customers making the decision to only service instances with critical updates versus CUs. This risk does not exist with previous version SP-based slipstream media. This is why:

Service Packs create new servicing baselines for both Cumulative Updates (the “CU train”) and Critical Updates (the “GDR train”). This affords the capability for a “GDR train” instance to install a SP and retain the capability/option to keep applying only critical updates (GDRs) to that instance. While we recommend that customers install CUs as they become available, we still maintain the option to only install security updates to an instance. Therefore, when SQL 2012-2016 SP slipstream media is utilized for a new instance Install, or an existing downlevel instance Upgrade, the CU or GDR servicing train choice exists as well.

If the formerly proposed CU slipstream media was utilized for a new instance Install or an existing downlevel instance Upgrade the CU or GDR servicing train choice would NOT exist, only the “CU train” would be available. For example, if after installing a new instance using CU12 slipstream media, if only critical updates were desired, that would not be possible. The instance would have to be serviced with a CU that contains the critical update instead. This CU could contain a significant number of non-critical hotfixes that are beyond the scope of security updates only.

In place of slipstream CU media, we recommend utilizing slipstreaming capabilities that already exist in SQL Server setup that utilize the RTM media and the desired update media. This ‘manual slipstreaming’ is done through the use of the /UPDATESOURCE=<path to desired update media> setup command line argument for an Install or Upgrade operation.  For details on this, please see Install SQL Server from the Command Prompt.

We are also looking at other avenues to improve the Windows Install and Upgrade experiences to more easily slipstream in current updates.

SQL Server on Linux packages and Container images

Please note that SQL Server on Linux packages and Container images always contain all the fixes up to the latest CU by default.