When ever new version of a product is being developed, it will be available to some selected community members and When a new version of a product is being produced, it will be made available for testing to a restricted group of community members and customers. For the product, this is referred to as ALPHA builds.
If the development process continues smoothly and the product becomes more reliable, it will be distributed to a larger number of clients. This is referred to as BETA RELEASES (for example, BETA1, BETA2, and so forth.)
Pre-releases of SQL SERVER are now known as Community Technology Previews, thanks to a change in terminology by Microsoft ( CTP ). This will be available on the Microsoft website for download.
Release Candidate refers to a product that has reached the last phases of testing before to release (RC).
After that, the product will go through extensive testing, which ensures that no further changes are required before it is released. This is known as General Availability (GA) product will go to significant testing , here confirms there will be no more changes needed for the product before release, it is called General Availability (GA).
After all of the testing is completed, the product will be given over to a company that will create media files such as CDs and DVDs. When the completed product is used by consumers, it is referred to as Release to Manufacturing (RTM).
Customers may encounter some specific challenges with the product. To address those difficulties, MS issues hotfixes that were created by the DEV Team.
When these concerns affect an increasing number of customers, Microsoft releases a General Distribution Release (GDR), which contains security fixes.
Both these hotfixes anBoth hotfixes and GDRs are designed to help consumers with specific issues right away. Many consumers find it impractical to apply the growing quantity of hotfixes and GDRs. As a result, Microsoft developed Cummulative Updates (CU), which comprise all of the hotfixes. This makes installation easier for all clients.
By gathering above all fixeMS has issued a ServicePack (SP) that includes all hotfixes, GDRs, and cumulative Updates, as well as some additional features that were not available at the time of General Availability..