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Versioning Over Time

By Steve Jones,

A few years ago I was working for a large company and was asked to rebuild a server. This was in the 2001 or 2002 time frame and the majority of our servers were running SQL Server 2000 with some SQL Server 7 versions still in the data center awaiting resources to upgrade. We had been fairly aggressive in moving forward on our platforms to minimize the skill sets needed to support the environment. Since we were a large company, 5000+ people, we could push vendors around a bit to ensure support and get buy in from employees by making this policy.

I liked this policy of having a fairly tight band of versions and products since it simplified the support end, and it ensured we were always learning and felt some pressure to keep moving forward. We did spend quite a bit of time upgrading systems, but it was an enjoyable task for me. I'm sure Microsoft liked it as well since it ensured that we were constantly paying them license fees.

Note that we had an Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft, so the cost wasn't astronomical and we basically upgraded whenever we wanted, whatever we wanted, for a known, fixed cost per year.

One day someone asked me to put together an old server onto which they could restore a backup from a few years prior to that time. This was in response to a legal issue, and apparently it happened on a regular basis, perhaps once a year. In this case we needed to build a SQL Server v6.5 instance. I went into our library of media, found a v6.5 CD, and we installed the server and then started the restore.

Only to have it fail.

A little digging determined that we needed Service Pack 3 for SQL Server 6.5 in order to a) make the restore work and b) comply with the legal issue.

We spent a few days looking for SP3 since SP5 was the current version on the MS site and prior ones weren't available. I called all my friends, and even posted a note here on the site. Eventually we found some developers at Microsoft that still had it around and through our local reps, a CD arrived that we used to get the server set up.

Since then I've tried to keep copies of all the service packs that have come around just in case. It's unlikely that I'll get sued, but who knows when I might need to pull back a prior version of some server. Or someone will ask me and I'll be able to save their day. I regret to say that I've gotten out of the habit since I don't manage servers anymore, but I think it's a good idea to keep that code around, especially with these days of 6 CUs a year and likely 2 service packs (1 for each current supported version).

We all tend to get caught up in our own environment, working in a narrow band of supported versions. However as we evolve our systems, and as we have more and more systems, tracking our versions over time and having old code available is something that you might want to consider doing. You never know when keeping that SP1 CD will come in handy and save the day. And perhaps get you that raise.

Steve Jones

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