I recently recently got some very helpful clarification from a friend at Microsoft about Microsoft’s plans for how they will be servicing SQL Server 2012 over the rest of 2013, and how these plans will work with their mainstream support policy. I don’t think this is any great change, but it is a welcome explanation of their servicing and support policy.

As you may know, I have previously talked about how the Cumulative Updates (CU) for the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) and the Service Pack 1 (SP1) branches of SQL Server 2012 are “out of synch”, with the latest release for the RTM branch happening about one month sooner than the roughly equivalent CU for the SP1 branch. You can see this by looking at Table 1 and comparing the release dates for the recent CUs for both branches.

RTM Branch Builds SP1 Branch Builds
Build Description Release Date Build Description Release Date
11.0.2300 Original RTM
11.0.2316 RTM CU1 4/12/2012
11.0.2325 RTM CU2 6/18/2012 11.0.3000 SP1 RTM 11/7/2012
11.0.2332 RTM CU3 8/31/2012
11.0.2383 RTM CU4 10/15/2012 11.0.3321 SP1 CU1 11/20/2012
11.0.2395 RTM CU5 12/17/2012 11.0.3329 SP1 CU2 1/21/2013
11.0.2401 RTM CU6 2/18/2013 11.0.3349 SP1 CU3 3/18/2013

Table 1: SQL Server 2012 Cumulative Updates

According to my source, Microsoft “will stop doing CUs for SQL 2012 RTM in line with the policy of 12 months + SQL 2012 SP1 release (Nov 2012). It is a rough date so the last RTM CU is likely in October sometime.”  That means that the last SQL Server 2012 RTM CU will probably be CU10, released around October 21, 2013. SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 2 is likely to be released in the October/November 2013 timeframe (my guess). The Microsoft lifecycle policy for SQL Server 2012 shows that mainstream support for SQL Server 2012 RTM will end on January 14, 2014.

This means that if you are still on the RTM branch (perhaps because the latest hotfixes are showing up one month earlier than in the SP1 branch) when SP2 is released, you will still be supported until January 14, 2014. These latest fixes from the RTM branch are also supposed to show up in a supported branch (SP1 or SP2) by January 14, 2014. This clarification alleviates my concern that someone might be in a non-supported configuration for a period of time until the SP1 and SP2 branches reached relative parity with the RTM branch.

These two Microsoft KB articles are useful references that you might want to bookmark, since they list and link each CU (and they are updated as new CUs are released).

The SQL Server 2012 builds that were released after SQL Server 2012 was released

The SQL Server 2012 builds that were released after SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 was released

You might want to read Making the Case for Regular SQL Server Servicing to understand why I think it is a good idea to keep your SQL Server instances properly maintained.