Within the SQL Server community, there is so much publicity on T-SQL set-oriented processing as good practice and the use of T-SQL cursors as bad practice that T-SQL cursors are effectively being seen as a plague to be avoided when in fact it's not the use of T-SQ cursors, but their misuse, that should be avoided. To be fair, I must say that I have seen set-minded folks coming out to exhibit a more balanced view.
I'm not here to engage in a new debate on the pros and cons of T-SQL cursors or when they should be used. Such a debate is necessarily a contentious one at the best, and the voice for the set-oriented approach is so loud that any other arguments or suggestions risk getting drowned out.
What I do want to highlight in this post is that T-SQL cursors are used heavily in all the three TPC-E test results published to date (see www.tpc.org). As of 2007/10/09, all the published TPC-E official tests were obtained with SQL Server 2005 X64 edition and with essentially the same database schema. If you look at the full disclosure reports for these TPC-E results (available at www.tpc.org), you'll find the stored procedures that were written to implement the TPC-E transactions, and of the 26 stored procedures, nine used T-SQL cursors.
Of course, the fact that these TPC-E implementations used T-SQL cursors doesn't mean that T-SQL cursors should be generally recommended. But these published TPC-E results do serve as a few data points to highlight the traps of such unqualified statement as "avoid using cursors."
Yeah, the fact that these TPC-E implementations used T-SQL cursors doesn't even mean cursors are the best possible solution for their business logic. However, note that TPC benchmarking is a highly competitive business. Significant resources are being invested by the test sponsors and the DBMS vendors to get the best performance numbers for their respective systems. You can safely assume that whatever design and configurations that are used in a published TPC benchmark are not there by accident, but are deliberately chosen after many alternative designs and configurations have been explored, considered, and tested.