Microsoft released SQL Server 2000 Beta 2 last week and is now suggesting that the real deal might ship sometime this summer. (Microsoft didn't say summer in which hemisphere, but I'm willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt and assume we're talking summer in the Western hemisphere.) Although SQL Server 2000 will be a watershed event in the database world, we're not going to wake up to find our SQL Server 6.x and 7.0 installations magically upgraded to SQL Server 2000 the day it ships. Most of us have plenty of time to plan how we're going to move to this new release, but those of us on older versions of SQL Server may need to map out our migration strategy sooner rather than later. I asked the people at Microsoft who are responsible for providing SQL Server support how long they plan to support existing SQL Server versions. Here's the official answer:

"As many of you have seen, Microsoft continues to drive new product innovation by extending and reengineering the SQL Server database product. We believe these new product capabilities are properly suited for the needs of the ever-changing database community. We also realize, however, that there are strong needs to maintain legacy systems indefinitely while new technology rollouts take place. In the past 6 years, Microsoft has released four major versions of SQL Server. The purpose of this note is to explain what you should expect from the official Product Support Services group if you were to call in on these versions. This holds for all worldwide releases.

  • v4.21a—We have officially begun the obsolescence of support for this product. Customers with Premier contracts should soon receive a letter explaining that phone support will end around the end of (CY) 2000. No additional maintenance work, either hotfix (patch) work or service packs, are considered at this time.
  • v6.0—We will continue to take service requests on v6.0 indefinitely. We will watch the call volumes for this product, and as these volumes become negligible, we will begin the obsolescence process. There is no current timetable for this to occur. No additional maintenance work, either hotfix work or service packs, are considered at this time.
  • v6.5—We will continue to take service requests on v6.5 indefinitely. There are no plans to discontinue support for v6.5, and it remains a reportable percentage of our call volumes. Official hotfix support for v6.5 will end when SQL Server 2000 ships, although we will extend hotfix support for v6.5 to the end of 2000 for Premier customers with mission-critical destabilizing issues. There will not be any more service pack releases for v6.5, although plans are being made to publicly post a recent v6.5 maintenance build for customer download. (It will contain many documented post-Service Pack 5 (SP5) fixes.)
  • v7.0—We continue to take service requests on v7.0 and will continue providing traditional maintenance work, both in the form of hotfixes and service packs.

When in maintenance mode, hotfixes are generally considered for the current product and one prior version ('N-1'). We strive to release service packs every six months."