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Next month, after a long silence, Microsoft will reveal what relational features from SQL Server have gone into its Azure cloud. Or so it seems.

Microsoft's SQL Data Services (SDS) development manager Nigel Ellis has promised attendees at next month's Mix 09 will see "a great session about SQL Data Services, including how the service has evolved to provide rich relational database capabilities".

Writing on the Mix agenda page,he said he couldn't release details about this session - meaning technical nuts and bolts or relational capabilities - until after the MIX keynotes. This indicates strongly Microsoft executives will have news to announce on this at the show.

"Check this abstract again at that time for complete details," Ellis said.

The Windows Azure Storage director Brad Caldwell, meanwhile, has promised you'll learn how to create blobs, tables, and queues in Windows Azure Storage.

Senior program manager David Robinson separately wrote on the SDS team blog Microsoft would be unveiling some new features that are going to "knock your socks off" at Mix 09.

Robinson's post is pertinent. The SDS team has been silent since October, when it wrote about the release of the Azure Community Technology Preview (CTP), despite claiming to be busy behind the scenes.

That silence combined with overlapping offerings - SDS and Azure Table Services - has left people understandably mystified about what to use and where things are headed.

Attending this week's VSLive and MSDN Developer conferences, it was clear that Microsoft still has not updated partners on what to expect and that individuals are trying to figure out details for themselves. The situation was not made any clearer when Microsoft revealed it's putting SQL Server into Azure.

"People are starting to question what's going on in the SDS world and why we have been so silent," Rob admitted on the SDS blog.

The prevailing view is that Microsoft will have a lightweight and heavy-duty storage offering in Azure and that you will scale up and down in terms of functionality according to need.

Therein lies the devil.

Unless things change radically during the Mix 09 news announcements, it seems Microsoft will persist in having at least two separate storage options for Azure.

How these will be differentiated - and how Microsoft will define the huge gray area between them - is anyone's guess. Further, that distinction will become harder to make given Microsoft's committed to putting full SQL Server into Azure.

Looks like the task of deciding who gets what - and what they'll pay - will be one for the business development and marketing gnomes to sweat.

Microsoft refused to provide details on what we can expect at Mix 09 and referred to an earlier statement that said: "After many reviews with early adopters and based on feedback resulting from the CTP Microsoft is evolving SDS capabilities to provide customers with the ability to leverage a traditional RDBMS data model in a cloud-based environment."®

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