It took Microsoft five years to come out with the SQL Server 2005 release but only five months for the first Community Technology Preview (CTP) for SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 1 (SP1). At first glance, it seems like Microsoft rushed out a buggy product with SQL Server 2005 and the company's now rushing to try and patch all the holes left in last November's release. However, I believe there's more to the story.

Push to Deliver Missing Features

This first service pack isn't driven by a bug issue. Instead, it's a push to deliver the features missing from the current release of SQL Server 2005—most notably database mirroring, an important feature in the very first CTPs of SQL Server 2005. It delivers an important new high-availability capability to customers, and competitors Oracle and IBM DB2 have had this essential capability for some time.

Related: New Features in SQL Server 2005 SP1

Microsoft's early announcement that database mirroring wouldn't be included in the initial SQL Server 2005 release to manufacturing (RTM) was a blow to a company already struggling with a reputation that they can't deliver products on time or stick to a release schedule. Microsoft claimed the delay of mirroring was a quality issue, which it undoubtedly was, but the bottom line was the feature wasn't in the release, a problem that SP1 rectifies.

Another reason for a quick SP1 release is the large (and some might say prudent) group of customers that simply won't install the initial release of any Microsoft product. Microsoft is well aware of this situation, especially among its enterprise customers, and is using the first service pack to get a second wave of product adoptions started.

SQL Server 2005 SP1 a 2GB Download

The SP1 release also includes SQL Server Management Studio Express (SSMSE), updates for Microsoft XML Parser, SQLXML, the SQL Server Native Client, Visual SourceSafe, and the SQL Server 2005 Backward Compatibility Components. SP1, a 2GB download, upgrades Enterprise, Developer, Standard, and Workgroup editions of SQL Server 2005. SQL Server 2005 Books Online (BOL) are also updated for SP1. Separate service packs exist for the 32-bit x86 platform, the 64-bit x64 platform, and the 64-bit Itanium platform. Even though SQL Server 2005 SP1 includes SSMSE, SQL Server 2005 Express has a different SP1 service pack.

If you're running SQL Server 2005, I suggest you install the new service pack as soon as you can. Of course you still need to test it for your environment before you go live with it.

Before installing any service pack, be sure to back up your SQL Server 2005 databases, including the master, model, and msdb databases and your Analysis Services database. If autogrow isn't enabled for the msdb and master databases, be sure that you have at least 500KB of free space in each of these system databases.

Word of Caution

One word of caution: Don't make the mistake of confusing the CTP with the actual SP1 release. The CTP only provides early customer experience and isn't intended for production use. Quite frankly, considering the dropped features just before the product's release and the product delays, you really have to wonder how effective the CTP program is. Nevertheless, it's a model Microsoft has pioneered with SQL Server 2005 and is expanding to other product releases, including the upcoming Windows Vista release.