So I’m sat in a meeting around a piece of greenfield data warehousing work and the client platform requirement comes up: SQL Server 2005. At this point the song ‘Boom Boom Pow’ sailed into my head – specifically Fergie’s line about being ‘so 3008’. Then on the way home I get into a discussion with a very nice chap who says his techies have advised him not to adopt new software until the first service pack. My eyes roll.
So is being an early adopter like being at the front of the Landing Craft in ‘Saving Private Ryan’? Are you just the bullet catcher for the software vendor’s incompetence? I say it depends on the vendor. On greenfield projects in my organisation, unless there is a compelling reason not to use the latest release version of a platform then we will use the latest version. Why? because we’re a Microsoft shop and the latest version usually has extra features that require us to write less plumbing (using WCF instead of Remoting is very good case in point). Why create work for ourselves and add unnecessary risk to projects?
I’ve heard the ‘wait until the first service pack’ argument from professionals who ought to know better. Early adopters are not what they once were – Microsoft releases CTPs, Betas, and RCs before it does the RTM. At which point the product has been pretty extensively tested by a wide audience of users. That’s not to say there are no bugs before it goes to market, but there’s a lot less than there used to be and they fix them on a very quick rolling cycle. This isn’t about whether bugs should be in software – despite what some people would have us believe it’s not just a problem faced by Microsoft.
The point is: if a product is not ready for release, it shouldn’t be on the market. I’m not an early adopter for the sake of it, but since Vista I’ve used the latest version of whatever (VS2008, .NET 3.5, Windows 7, SQL Server 2008 etc.) as soon as it’s gone RTM. To date this has caused me 1 problem for internal use software (which wasn’t Microsoft) and zero problems for product deployments to customers.