SP2 was released today… and, did you know about the Feature Pack?

OK – I feel like I know a fair amount about SQL Server but sometimes I also feel like I don’t :) :) I’m continuously amazed at how big a product SQL Server is… today was one of those days when I felt “I don’t”!

I’ve been wanting to know more and more about the new features in the tools and the direction in which the tools are headed so… I setup a meeting with Paul Mestemaker (it helps that I live in Redmond and I’m working on some SP2 resources for the team :); it was a great meeting. Some exciting new features and some great new directions in which the tools are headed. I like the way they’re thinking and I especially like the options that are now in place to discover, use and customize the “reports” feature within Management Studio (just to name one!). What I learned (that was the highest on my “I didn’t know that” list) is that quite a few gems are released as part of the Feature Pack for SQL Server. The Feature Pack “is a collection of standalone install packages that provide additional value for SQL Server 2005. It has been updated for SP2.” From that description, it doesn’t leap out at me as exciting AND I often know about many of these tools through other channels – but usually it’s just “a tool at a time”. The thing that’s nice about the FP page is that it seems to be a nice and central, single location for ALL of the “add-ons” for SQL Server. It includes things like the Upgrade Advisor (which I typically point people to individually on it’s main page) and will include (once it ships) things like the BPA (SQL Server 2005 Best Practices Analyzer) BUT it also includes things like a standalone download for SQLCMD so that you don’t need to install all of the tools if you just want this lightweight client for automation. Additionally, it includes the SQL Server 2000 DTS Designer Components if you want to edit/modify/maintain DTS packages in 2005 before you rewrite/convert them to SSIS.

So – the point is that there’s lots of great stuff out there and sometimes it just takes another person, a blog entry, or a few minutes hitting a company site to see what’s new. I’d strongly suggest that you and your team pick a morning – maybe once or twice a month (and round robin who brings the coffee/doughnuts :)) to just browse around and see if there’s anything new on your hardware, software and other supporting sites – especially those that don’t already have a blog/rss feed (or other form for notifications). No one needs to know everything but knowing where to look can really make all the difference when you do need something (or when you have a concern/problem). And browsing a few sites (occasionally) might make the difference in applying a hotfix/patch before something becomes a big problem. Staying current with hotfixes, service packs, bios updates, firmware updates, etc. is difficult so make it a team effort.

Speaking of service packs, here’s the primary page for SQL Server 2005 SP2: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/sql/2005/downloads/servicepacks/sp2.mspx
And don’t forget the Books Online Update as it is NOT installed when you update an instance to SP2: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/sql/2005/downloads/books.mspx

Also, be sure to watch the SQL Server Manageability Blog (aka Paul Mestemaker’s blog) moving forward as he’ll have the first news about BPA and many other tips/tricks with regard to the tools.

Finally, (and this is great timing too), Paul Randal – prolific author at the SQL Server Storage Engine Blog – blogged about all of the active “SQL Server Product Team”-related blogs here.

And…….. if that doesn’t keep you busy, I’m not sure what will! :)

Instant Initialization technical details are next and then I’ll get back to the Clustered Index Debate. Thanks for reading!

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