There were a number of great announcements from Scott Guthrie today: http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/azure-sql-databases-api-management-media-services-websites-role-based-access-control-and-more
One that particularly caught my eye was a subtle change to the billing for Azure SQL Database. Databases used to be billed at a daily charge.
While this might not have seemed a big deal, the only way to create a transactionally-consistent backup of the database was to first copy it using CREATE DATABASE AS COPY OF original database, then to use the database export functions on the copy. The export needed to be done on the copy (not on the original) as it just copied the data in each table, one table at a time.
If you did this operation once per day, you would have doubled the database costs. I have a customer who wanted to create 3 copies a day of 3,000 databases. That would have meant paying for 12,000 databases.
I'm glad to see that sense has prevailed on this. With the new billing option, this customer would now pay for the 3,000 databases for 24 hours a day, and 3 hours per day of additional databases, for an effective equivalent cost of 3,375 databases. That's a big step forward from paying 12,000 databases. It's enough of a change that it might make the project workable where it was not workable before.
The new arrangement is much more "cloudy" and in line with how other Azure services are charged. It's very welcome thanks Microsoft!