SP2 to Be Last for SQL Server 7 before SQL Server 2000 Release

SQL Server 7.0 Service Pack 2 (SP2), which Microsoft Corp. released in late March, will probably be the last service pack for the database management system before the release of SQL Server 2000.

"We accumulate fixes after they’ve gone through triage. We’re roughly on a six- to nine-month schedule, but it’s dependent on having a critical mass of important fixes to release," says Jeff Ressler, product manager for SQL Server at Microsoft (www.microsoft.com).

SQL Server 7.0, which was released in the beginning of 1999 was such a major upgrade of the RDBMS over version 6.5 that almost the entire code base was new. Microsoft sent out the first service pack for SQL Server 7.0 over the summer.

SQL Server 2000 enters Beta 2 testing this month, and is slated for release this summer.

Matthias Berndt, program manager in the SQL Server development team at Microsoft, emphasizes that SP2 is not the end of the line for SQL Server 7.0 service packs. "It’s not the last service pack for 7.0 for the lifetime of the product," he says, pointing out that version 6.5 is now up to an SP5.

Microsoft posted SP2 March 20 at www.microsoft.com/sql/support/sp2.htm. SP2 contains 190 new bug fixes and improvements, according to the fix list provided at Microsoft’s site.

Microsoft recommends that users install SP2 in all current and new installations of SQL Server 7.0 and Microsoft Data Engine (MSDE) 1.0. As a cumulative service pack, SP2 can be directly installed on top of SQL Server 7.0 or on SQL Server 7.0 with SP1.

The service pack carries on the practice Microsoft started with SP1: splitting RDBMS components and OLAP Services components into separate downloads. OLAP Services were introduced into SQL Server with the 7.0 release. There are 170 updates for the database side and 20 updates for the OLAP side in SP2.

For Intel platforms, the database component download is 41.6 MB and the OLAP component download is 64.4 MB. SP2 documentation shows that to install both components requires 380 MB of free disk space. Although Microsoft and Compaq Computer Corp. (www.compaq.com) stopped development of Windows NT on Compaq's Alpha platform, SP2 is available as an Alpha download, as well.

SP2 includes an additional 63 database component updates and six OLAP component updates from SP1.

One of the biggest fixes in SP2 covers nontrusted connections through OPENROWSET, which was also addressed in a March 4 Microsoft security bulletin.

The SQL Server team tucked in a few design changes, but they were tailored to specific customer problems. "The ones that you find there are the ones that have proven to be customer issues," Berndt says. "We are not fixing just for the sake of fixing."

One is a new startup option for managing memory. "What [this change] allows DBAs to do is start up their SQL Server with a little more granular control about how memory is managed," Ressler says.

Another design alteration allows DBAs to limit the results returned by queries against full-text-enabled, large databases. "They can bring a very large database to its knees," Berndt says of the unbridled queries that typically cause problems in databases of 1 million rows or more.

Other fixes in SP2 address memory leaks, causes of fatal errors, performance issues that caused SQL Server 7.0 to be slower than version 6.5 in some cases, problems introduced by SP1, and registry changes required for Windows 2000.

With SQL Server 2000, Microsoft is adding data mining, performance clustering, and enhanced integration with Windows 2000 -- including support for the higher memory limits in Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Datacenter Server.