On a Microsoft Connect post, one user asked for a headcount concerning who would prefer Microsoft release an SP4 for SQL Server 2005. The vote? 1085 yea, 1 nay. Over 100 comments echo the same sentiments: "I really hope that Microsoft will release a SP4 for SQL Server 2005 soon."

Fortunately, it appears that Microsoft has heard the cries of DBAs and is planning to release SQL Server 2005 SP4. Here's what you need to know:

1. When will SP4 be released? The current target is Q4 2010.

2. What will change in SP4? There aren't any specifics on this, but I doubt we'll see much other than bug fixes and cleanup. I wouldn't expect any significant functionality improvements, considering that Microsoft is pushing SQL Server 2008 R2 this year (release date in May 2010) as well.

3. With the expectation of 2005 SP4, should I skip 2008? That depends on your company. Many companies haven't upgraded to SQL Server 2008 because of (a) compatibility issues with existing programs or (b) cost and hassle. And if your company just recently moved to SQL Server 2005, you're probably not ready for yet another upgrade.

Every company is different—I recommend reading some of the recent articles we've posted on new features to see what benefits you'd gain from the upgrade so you can make an informed decision:

  1. Microsoft's Mark Souza Lists His Favorite SQL Server 2008 R2 Features
  2. T-SQL Enhancements in SQL Server 2008
  3. SQL Server 2008 R2 Editions

One of the most anticipated features (according to SQL Server Magazine readers) of SQL Server 2008 R2 is PowerPivot. Check out Derek Comingore's blog here for more information on this business intelligence (BI) feature.

One last thing to consider when mulling over an upgrade is this: We don't know when the next SQL Server version after 2008 R2 will be. Microsoft put a 5-year gap between 2000 and 2005, but only 3 years between 2005 and 2008. They’ve been trying to get on a three-year cycle between major releases. So will the next version be 2011? We really don't know yet, but it could be a long wait for organizations still on SQL Server 2005.