Microsoft Corp. is creating technology to give businesses more fine-grained control over access to data stored in the company’s upcoming SQL Azure database-as-a-service, a senior engineer said Tuesday. Code-named Vidalia, the technology will provide “trustworthy data collaboration for highly-sensitive business data across disparate trust domains,” said Microsoft technical fellow, Dave Campbell, in a talk at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference 2009 (PDC09) in Los Angeles.

Translation: Companies will be able to define and enforce policies controlling who can see what data at a very detailed level.

That will be through what Campbell called a “capability generation center” that will protect data inside the database, i.e. “at rest,” and when it’s moving through the network, i.e. “in motion.”

Other features are coming to SQL Azure, which will go into production when Windows Azure does on January 1.

In the first half of next year, it will bring a “database clone” feature for administrators, said Tony Petrossian, principal program manager for SQL Azure.

By the second half, Microsoft plans to release continuous backup of SQL Azure databases. Users will be able to restore their databases to any point in time, he said.

Microsoft is also working on making it easier for users to grow and shrink their databases, so that they are not constricted in size or overpay for storage they don’t need, Petrossian said.

Other related features include the ability to dynamically split or merge databases, and build tools to manage large groups of schemas across databases, he said, as well as query multiple databases at a time.

These improvements are aimed at both enterprise department end-users, as well as Software as a Service (SaaS)-based resellers of SQL Azure, he said.

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