Recently, we announced an update to the Incremental Servicing Model for SQL Server. The details of the changes in the SQL Server Incremental Servicing Model can be found in this blog post.
You should plan to install a SQL Server Cumulative Update with the same level of confidence you plan to install SPs (Service Packs) as they are released. This is because Cumulative Updates are certified and tested to the level of Service Packs. Also, Microsoft CSS data indicates that a significant percentage of customer issues are often previously addressed in a released CU, but not applied proactively. More so, CU’s contain added value over and above hotfixes. These also may contain supportability, logging, and reliability updates enhancing the overall experience.