To apply or not to apply that cumulative update (CU)

Posted in: Microsoft SQL Server, Technical Track

Today the SQL Server Engineering posted an important shift in their recommendations regarding applying Cumulative Updates (often referred to as CUs) on their blog. You can find it here.

About 4 months ago we had an internal debate regarding the best patch strategy and I noticed that our SQL Server DBAs were divided on the best approach.

Some insisted that installing CUs as they were released was the best practice, while others insisted that you should only patch if you needed the Hotfix. I don’t know what spurred it but I saw other discussions on the subject pop up in the community a few days later.

Throughout my career, I’ve been torn on the best strategy myself. I like to keep my systems up to date but I’d always taken the approach that if you needed the hotfix, then with proper testing you should apply a CU. The release of a CU has never been the trigger for me to patch all my SQL Servers in any other occasion – except – when a lot of time had passed between Service Packs which did happen.

I think that strategy of waiting a long time before applying a service pack is a flawed one and don’t recommend it. I don’t think it’s a good idea to be “one release behind” or wait a year. That said, as a career DBA I don’t think I’ll rush out and apply the CU unless it’s fixing something. If I have the cycles, I may test it early on, but I’ll probably wait a month or two and see what the community has to say about it before apply it to production.

I predict that you’ll see Microsoft (and other vendors) move away from large service packs as they move into a more agile approach to their own software. I suspect it won’t belong before we see a formal cancellation of large releases. This is all the more reason for us to ensure we have automation in place for testing and deployment so that the release of an update isn’t a significant topic in our systems-planning meetings.

Do you apply CUs right away or delay? What’s your patch-strategy?

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About the Author

Chris Presley loves order—making him a premier Microsoft SQL Server expert. Not only has he programmed and administered SQL Server, but he has also shared his expertise and passion with budding DBAs as SQL Server instructor at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario. Drawing on his strong disaster-recovery skills, he monitors production environments to swiftly detect and resolve problems before they arise. A self-described adrenaline junkie, Chris likes tackling the biggest database problems and putting out the toughest fires—and hitting the road on his motorcycle.

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