The Azure team keep rolling out improvements at an amazing pace. Scott Guthrie posted recently about the latest set of changes. Here are the ones that I think are most important for SQL people:
Import/Export Hard Drives
Even though Azure storage accounts can hold a very large amount of data, one of the big questions has always been about how to get that data into the storage account in the first place. That question is now answered because the new Windows Azure Import/Export service lets you ship hard drives directly to the Azure team for uploading. The reverse is also available. If you export a large amount of data to a storage account, you can move it onto a hard drive and have the drive sent to you.
Currently the service uses FedEx for transport. If you are concerned about the security of data in transit, bit locker encryption is also supported in both directions.
HDInsight Out of Preview Mode
HDInsight has made its way out of preview and into general availability. It allows you to process large volumes of data (in Azure Storage) using Apache Hadoop tools (including Pig and Hive).
HDInsight gives you a way of rapidly (and economically) spinning up a Hadoop cluster when you need one, and shut it down again when you are done.
Virtual Machine Gallery
As the number of virtual machine images has continued to grow, it's been getting harder and harder to find the image that you want when creating a new virtual machine. UI changes have been made to make this easier.
One of the discussions that the team has been having lately is around how long images should be kept. For example, once SQL Server 2014 ships, should images of SQL Server 2008 R2, or SQL Server 2008 also be kept? I'd like to see them all kept but I'm not sure how much ongoing maintenance that is for the team. Also, if they are all kept, should they only keep the version with the operating system that was the most current at the time? If anyone has strong opinions on this, I'd love to hear them and I'll pass them on.
You can now configure endpoint security using PowerShell.
You can now configure alerts related to billing. You can get an email when you bill exceeds a given threshold. One thing I'd really like to see (which isn't there yet) is the ability to simply have your bill emailed to you each month, even when it's prepaid. Does anyone else feel the need for that?
For further details on areas that I haven't mentioned, you'll find Scott's post here: http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/archive/2013/11/04/windows-azure-import-export-hard-drives-vm-acls-web-sockets-remote-debugging-continuous-delivery-new-relic-billing-alerts-and-more.aspx