So, people always ask… now that .NET Framework 3.0 installed on my system and there's going to be a new version of .NET that includes LINQ, what version of the framework will SQL Server load now, in SQL Server 2008? Does 2.0 still load? Or does it load 3.0 or 3.5?

Theoretically, and I've written this in books and previous blog entries, SQL Server loads the most recent version of the .NET framework. .NET service packs therefore affect SQLCLR. Especially if they contain updates to say, System.Data.dll. Or System.Xml.dll. Or [your favorite "approved" library goes here].

At present, one .exe can load one and only load version of the .NET framework. ASP.NET, for example, supports multiple versions with multiple worker-processes, that is, multiple .exe-s. Perhaps in .NET 4.0, we'll be able to run multiple .NETs in a single process. Perhaps not. The "main" .NET assembly is mscorlib.dll; this contains quite a few of the "main" .NET namespaces/classes. Namespaces don't necessarily correlate to DLLs, in Visual Studio 2008 version of .NET "System.Data" will be spread across a few DLLs. To me, there is "a new version of .NET" when there is a new version of mscorlib.dll. That's not the way its represented normally.

.NET 3.0 did not replace mscorlib.dll. Or System.Data, System.Xml, ASP.NET, or others. In my C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v3.0 directory there is no DLLs, only three subdirectories: Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Workflow Foundation, and WPF. So, if you have a machine that "comes with .NET 3.0" it also must come with (at least) .NET 2.0.

My machine (with SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2) has a .NET 3.5 directory in it. And a subdirectory named "Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 (Pre-Release Version)". Neither one has an mscorlib.dll in it. It's mostly Visual Studio-related DLLs and utilities.

The main additonal assemblies for 3.0 and 3.5 (like LINQ, for example) actually live in C:\Program Files\Reference Assemblies\Microsoft\Framework. V3.0 and V3.5. That's were the main action is, except that this is all mostly hidden by the presence of and registration in the global assembly cache (GAC).

So, an instance of SQL Server 2008 will load mscorlib.dll, version 2.0.50727.42, as always. However, in SQL Server 2008 (and 2005 for that matter, if it ships as a .NET upgrade through Windows Update), you'll see a new version of System.Data.dll, version 2.0.50727.1378. Or, perhaps, we'll be able to hold the versions constant, at the possible expense of interop between SQL Server 2005 features that use .NET. Like SSIS, SSMS, SSRS, and so on.

Got it? ;-)