Remember when Microsoft's cloud-based database service SQL Server Data Services was rebranded SQL Data Services? (Oh, right, that was just last year!) Well in true Microsoft product naming fashion, SQL Data Services has been rebranded SQL Azure Database, effective immediately. Nothing like making this product as confusing as possible to follow, right?

According to the SQL Azure FAQ page on Microsoft’s website, "Microsoft SQL Services is being renamed to Microsoft SQL Azure. There is no change in the product strategy roadmap, availability timeline, or business model. Microsoft received great feedback from customers on naming cloud database for Windows Azure and decided to rename SQL Services to SQL Azure."

SQL Azure Database is a database service hosted in the cloud that’s built on SQL Server and Windows Server. According to Microsoft, with SQL Azure Database, you don’t have to set up, patch, or manage database software. It includes built-in high availability, data protection, backup and recovery, and disaster recovery. And this cloud service scales easily because it’s built on a globally distributed data center.

At Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference 2009, which took place in New Orleans last week, Bob Muglia, the president of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business, announced the licensing and pricing model for Windows Azure and SQL Azure.  These services will be available for purchase under a consumption-based model, which means you pay only for the services you use. The pricing model for SQL Azure is as follows:
• Web Edition—$9.99 per month for relational databases up to 1GB in size.
• Business Edition—$99.99 for relational databases more than 1GB in size. (As of right now, SQL Azure has a 10GB relational database size limit.)
• Bandwidth—$.10 inbound and $.15 outbound per gigabyte.

According to Microsoft, Web Edition is best for web applications and custom departmental applications. Business Edition is aimed at ISV-packaged line of business (LOB) applications and custom departmental applications.

SQL Azure will be available at PDC 2009, which takes place in Los Angeles November 17-20. However, you can test SQL Azure for free by registering for the Community Technology Preview (CTP).  For more information about this cloud-based database service, visit the SQL Azure Database page on the Microsoft website and see the press release.