SQL Server 2016 Falling Out of Mainstream Support


SQL Server 2016 falls out of Mainstream Support on July 13, 2021. What this means is that there won’t be any new Service Packs or Cumulative Updates released for SQL Server 2016 after that date. It is still in Extended Support until July 14th, 2026. While in Extended Support, there will still be security and critical functional updates, if any are needed. This post is about SQL Server 2016 falling out of Mainstream Support.

June 17, 2021 Update: On June 16, 2021, Microsoft announced that there will be a SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 3. Here is the gist of the post:

With the crossover to extended support, Microsoft is committed to providing a final service pack for SQL Server 2016 to all customers.  The release of SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 3 will be shipped after mainstream supports ends, targeting September 2021.  This will be the final service pack for SQL Server 2016.

SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 3 release schedule update – Microsoft Tech Community

SQL Server 2016 Falling Out of Mainstream Support

What does this mean? Should you panic? In a word, no. There will not be any more SP or CU updates for SQL Server 2016. Over the next five years, there will probably be a few security updates, based on past history.

You can continue to run your SQL Server 2016 instances for as long as you need or want to. There is no expiration date or “time-lock” of any kind. Your support situation will deteriorate over time, and you will not get the benefit of the new features in newer versions of SQL Server.

SQL Server 2016 Falling Out of Mainstream Support

Why Was SQL Server 2016 So Important?

SQL Server 2016 is the oldest “modern” version of SQL Server. The “modern” versions of SQL Server are SQL Server 2016 through SQL Server 2019.

In SQL Server 2016 SP1, Microsoft made some major changes that let you use many “programability” features in SQL Server Standard Edition. In older versions, these features were only available in Enterprise Edition. This change lets you more seamlessly move between editions with a single code base.

Microsoft also made many low-level, hardware-focused performance improvements that let you use specific features in modern processors. This mainly affected things like encryption and compression. Many of these were explained by Bob Dorr and Bob Ward.

As a DBA and consultant, I was always much happier when I was dealing with SQL Server 2016 or newer rather than an older version. Modern versions of SQL Server have more useful configuration options that you can use to handle different types of workloads and performance issues.

What Should You Do About This?

First, you should be aware of what this support status change means. Second, you can use this change to help make the case to upgrade or migrate to a newer version of SQL Server. Microsoft would really, really like you to migrate to Azure SQL Database or SQL Managed Instance. Barring that, moving to an Azure VM (IaaS) would be another option.

You also might want to simply migrate a newer version of SQL Server. If you are going to do that, I would skip SQL Server 2017 at this point. There is nothing wrong with SQL Server 2017, but it is missing some useful new features that are in SQL Server 2019. Not to mention that SQL Server 2019 will be supported for a longer period of time.

With an on-premises upgrade/migration, you can upgrade your hardware/storage, and be on the latest operating system. You also have the opportunity to design and configure your infrastructure to support your workload.

If you are thinking about any sort of upgrade, the very first thing I would do would be to run the free Microsoft Data Migration Assistant (DMA) on your existing databases. This tool does a static code and schema analysis looking for upgrade blockers as well as more minor issues. It can also find areas where you might be able to see tangible benefits from upgrading to a newer version or different platform.

SQL Server 2016 Falling Out of Mainstream Support

Another step would be to build a new test environment, and start restoring databases there. This will let you experiment with different database compatibility levels and do some initial smoke testing with your applications.

Beware, the subject of what set of database compatibility levels and configuration options to use is more complicated than it used to be. I have some background here.

You can also hire a consultant or consulting company to help you with this effort!

Final Words

Update June 17, 2021: There WON’T be a SQL Server 2016 SP2 CU18.

There should be a SQL Server 2016 SP2 CU18 released before July 13th, 2021. This should be the final cumulative update for SQL Server 2016 SP2.

At the very least, you should try to get your SQL Server 2016 instances on the final build (which will be SQL Server 2016 SP3), after you have tested it.

If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerryThanks for reading!

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