Examining the SQL Server Release Cycle

Examining the SQL Server Release Cycle

I've heard from several of my customers and SQL Server community leaders that "SQL Server 2008 is coming too soon." The thinking goes that the adoption of SQL Server 2005 is still low enough that there just isn't a lot of pent up demand for SQL Server 2008. The press has chimed in on this topic numerous times as well. Read enough commentaries on the Internet and you might start to think that Microsoft should be horsewhipped for forcing an unwanted SQL Server upgrade on its customers. I've taken a ride on that editorial bandwagon myself in recent SQL Update commentaries. However, I've given the topic some more thought and have decided to exercise my weekly editorial right of changing my mind.

SQL Server 2008 is being released right on time. The SQL Server community should be thanking Microsoft profusely for this timely delivery. Let's revisit the release date for SQL Server 2008 through the filter of the release schedule that was in place for SQL Server 2005. You remember SQL Server 2005, right? The product that started out destined to be called SQL Server 2003 until it slipped for the better part of two years? Back then, I seem to remember the community and press (myself included) taking Microsoft to task for forcing us to wait so long. Microsoft promised to reengineer its release cycles and committed to shipping the next version of SQL Server (i.e., SQL Server 2008) two to three years after SQL Server 2005. The community and press all thought that idea was swell at the time. Hmmm, I've always been decent at basic arithmetic and it seems like Microsoft is delivering SQL Server 2008 right when it promised.

I'm sure that the SQL Server community, myself included, would have taken Microsoft to task if SQL Server 2008 had moved out of that two-to-three year cycle we had been promised. Bashing Microsoft is fun and easy, especially when you have a weekly commentary to write every week. However, it just doesn't seem fair to worry and complain about SQL Server 2008 being too early when we all know we'd be whining and complaining if it was released any later.

Perhaps we should all take off our sackcloth and stop wringing our hands. Will everyone upgrade to SQL Server 2008 as soon as it ships? Of course not. Will some staid customers prefer to skip a full SQL Server version every now and then? Sure. But it seems obvious to me that Microsoft has an obligation to build world-class SQL Server software and publish it on a reasonable and predictable schedule. Taking a cue from Goldilocks: anything more than two or three years seems too long. Anything less than two or three years seems too short. Two or three years between major releases seems just about right. Microsoft, thanks for delivering SQL Server 2008 when you promised.


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