There's more to SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2 than meets the eye. Microsoft has long struggled to find a way to
add new features without releasing an entirely new version of the product. In Service Pack 1, we saw Microsoft fix database mirroring — a new feature for the 2005 release. It's debatable whether it was ultimately a new feature or simply servicing a current feature. The important issue is that Microsoft is changing the game from just servicing current features to servicing current features plus releasing new ones -- and that sends a mixed message to database administrators. The service pack should be fixing bugs and that's it. Now, they're fixing bugs and adding features, which may add more issues to fix down the road in yet another service pack.
There are 61 bugs being handled by Service Pack 2. A number of the bugs have been identified and handled by hot fixes. Some of the bugs are rather deep down and not very visible, while others are quite the opposite and problematic. I applaud Microsoft for handling so many bugs and working to increase product quality. But, at the same time, those of us on the frontlines will have to wade through the service packs and hope our systems remain functional. I don't think you should wait for the service pack to RTM before testing it.
Take a look at these resources to find out all the details about SP2:
- Download SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2's CTP.
- Get a list of the bugs fixed in SP2.
- Find a list of new and improved features available in SP2.
Besides the generally large number of bug fixes, Microsoft has made the service of the editions a bit more complex — especially with regard to SQL Server 2005 Express and SQL Server Express Advanced Edition. Since these two versions have a reduced set
of features, Microsoft chose to provide separate installers for each. At this time, Microsoft hasn't provided separate "What's new page/files" for each of these versions. It's easy enough to figure out though -- so the code base is the same.
Beyond the routine bug fixes, Microsoft has started releasing new features in the service packs. While most of the feature changes are small improvements, one change that will surely get noticed by organizations conforming to the Common Criteria will be the new sp_configure flag for "common criteria compliance enabled." This feature is only available to SQL Server Enterprise Edition users, but it signifies a major goal of the SQL Server product group -- to get SQL Server 2005 tested by the common criteria organization. I would look for Microsoft to make a PR splash about this at Service Pack 2's RTM.
And watch out. It looks like Microsoft is planning a new feature pack, as you'll see here under Database Engine.
Microsoft makes mention of a new feature pack to be released after SP2. The company really plans to keep IT pros on their feet.
With this latest service pack, Microsoft is biting off a lot. I expect many folks will hold off on deploying SP2, as if no application is experiencing the issues this service pack addresses. For many customers, the process of applying service packs is a challenge. If your organization is planning on an across-the-board upgrade to Office 2007 — including the MOSS (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server) 2007 technology — SP2 is a must have.
My resource at Microsoft tells me that SP2 will be delivered after Office 2007's RTM, so don't hold your breath … just keep swimming.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eric Brown is a senior consultant in the Business Intelligence national practice for Quilogy Inc. He works on emerging technologies and SQL Server 2005 and is the author of SQL Server 2005 Distilled (Microsoft Windows Server). Brown's career began in 1996 at Multiple Zones International. While there he realized the next big wave would be e-commerce and he raced to get a job at a dot-com. After working for three such companies, his acumen for databases and passion for technology landed him on the SQL Server Product Team at Microsoft, during which he ran Yukon readiness. Eventually, Brown wrote a book about SQL Server 2005. He has presented at Microsoft TechEd and has written several papers as well as a column in SQL Server Magazine.
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