The release is predominantly a bug fix release (you can view the full list of fixes here). There’s nothing really new in the product itself, although install (via slipstreaming) and uninstall (granular rollback via Control Panel) are improved. There’s also a ClickOnce version of Report Builder 2.0.
So, in summary, not very exciting right? Well, no. In my opinion this is another example of Microsoft focussing on quality. I’m pleased to see this practice becoming more of the norm in the last year or so. Instead of pushing in all kinds of new features, they are concentrating on making what is already a very high quality release, even better.
In some ways you could say that SP1 is aimed at improving the IT Pro experience, rather than the Developer experience. Installing Service Packs for SQL Server is one of the scariest procedures for IT Administrators (more so than OS patches in most cases) so it is right that Microsoft is reducing the barriers to upgrade. Back in the SQL Server 2000 days, any Service Pack install was a precarious thing – that’s why so many were caught when the Slammer worm hit. SQL Server 2005 improved the process, but we still saw the service packs introduce brand new functionality.
SQL Server 2008 SP1 with its minimal footprint change, and singular focus on just fixing bugs is a good move. Applying the Service Pack still needs to be a carefully planned exercise of course, but it is much more manageable than in previous releases.
Figures suggest that SQL Server 2008 itself has been downloaded more than 3 millions times since last August. So adoption is high. Keeping quality high will only improve that confidence further.