I was doing some routine maintenance on one of the SQLskills lab servers (a pretty nice Dell PowerEdge R720) on Sunday night when I noticed that Microsoft Update (which is a superset of Windows Update) was offering “Update Rollup for SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 (KB2790947)” as an Optional Update for a Windows Server 2012 system as shown in Figure 1. This is either a special case or a change in the SQL Server servicing policy from Microsoft. Previously, Microsoft would offer SQL Server Service Packs as Optional Updates from Microsoft Update, but they would not offer Cumulative Updates that way.

CU Offered as an Optional Update

Figure 1: Update Rollup for SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 (KB2790947) in Microsoft Update

Microsoft Update is an optional component that you have to install on your server or client machine. Once you do that, you will get notifications about certain updates for products like Microsoft Office, Visual Studio, and SQL Server to name a few products that are covered.

When I first saw this optional update, I initially thought it was some sort of special, out-of-band QFE fix for SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1. Then I decided to Bing the KB2790947 article that was referenced (since I don’t memorize KB article numbers like Kimberly L. Tripp does), and I discovered that it was simply SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 Cumulative Update 2, which was released on January 21, 2013. This is interesting (at least to me), since Microsoft has always made people jump through some hoops to get a Cumulative Update for SQL Server.

Normally, you have to first discover that a new CU has been released, then you have to find the KB article for it, and then “request the hotfix download”, after which you will get a link e-mailed to you that lets you download a self-extracting executable with the CU setup program. This whole process is somewhat obscure and complicated, and many people seem to have problems understanding how it works.

Even though I am a big proponent of staying current with SQL Server Cumulative Updates (which makes me a target for some criticism), I don’t know if I like CUs being offered as Optional Updates in Microsoft Update. I think you should have a good test and deployment plan in place for whenever you install a SQL Server Service Pack or Cumulative Update on a production SQL Server instance. The complexity of your testing and deployment plan will vary based on your resources and organization, but any testing and any specific deployment plan is much better than having someone just “accidentally” deploy a SQL Server Cumulative Update when they decide to install all of their pending Microsoft Updates.

I would much rather install a Service Pack or Cumulative Update “on purpose” during a maintenance window after the organization had gone through the testing and deployment planning process. I am curious about whether this is actually going to be a change in how SQL Server is serviced going forward, or whether this was a one time occurrence?

What do you think about this?

Update: I have heard from a contact at Microsoft about this subject. Here is what they had to say:

“This was a special case.  This was to address the issue described in KB2793634. The WU will offer either CU2 (if the SP1 instance has taken a hotfix or CU to date) or an individual hotfix if not. The latter of course is to not force customers on the CU servicing train just to obtain the update.”

So, my interpretation is that nothing has really changed as far as Microsoft’s servicing policy goes, since this was just a special case to fix the issue described in KB2793634 with either SP1 CU2 or just an individual hotfix, depending on the previous patch level of your machine.