When you take a look inside a software develop project it's amazing how many decisions are made on a daily basis, how many of those decisions take so long to make, and how passionate people can become about those decisions. During the development of SQL Server 2005 we hit a point where no matter how we sliced it the product would not fit on a single CD. People may compare this to SQL Server 2000 which had no issue with fitting on a single CD, but this would not be a fair comparison. SQL Server 2005, in addition to components similar to 2000, includes Reporting Services, Notification Services, a new BI development environment, and an all new management tool. So the odds of this fitting on a single CD where slim to none.
So we found ourselves faced with a decision. Do we release on multiple CDs? Do we release on DVD? Or do we release on both?
It amazed me how much effort went into making this seemingly easy decision. What do other product groups at Microsoft do? What percentage of servers ship with DVD drives? For an entry level server how much does it cost to add a DVD player? These were some of the questions.
On the flip side, we had never split the installer across multiple CDs. Windows Installer provides some of this functionality for free, but given the way SQL setup was architected we couldn’t leverage the Windows Installer solution. This meant we had to build it. On the surface this sounds like a really easy problem to solve. It’s a very well defined pattern after all. But the risk of not getting it 100% correct wasn’t factored into the overall decision of CD or DVD.
In the end we chose to release on both. In the short run this is probably the right decision, however, in the long run it’s the wrong decision – any way you look at it. We took resources away from other things and put them on this problem. And, I hate to say it; we didn’t get it 100% correct. The solution is a bit “hard coded”; which doesn’t make for a great user experience. But hindsight is always 20-20.
By the way, it looks like the next release of SQL Server will be DVD only. So if you’re buying a server in the next couple of years make sure to add the DVD drive!