At the risk of coming off like TV's "Mad Men," Amazon Web Services really are New and Improved. The company today announced the addition of Amazon Relational Database Service, giving users of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) access to a virtual instance of MySQL. That's the New part. Improvements include a family of high-memory instances and a price reduction of Linux-based EC2 compute time to 8.5 cents per hour from 10 cents. The 15 percent price drop takes effect Nov. 1.

"Many customers have told us that their applications require a relational database," said Adam Selipsky, vice president of Amazon Web Services, in a statement. "That’s why we built Amazon RDS, which combines a familiar relational database with automated management and the instant scalability of the AWS cloud." Existing MySQL applications can be "work seamlessly with Amazon RDS," according to claims, while the cloud automates common administrative tasks such as setup and provisioning, patch management and data backups, which are stored for a user-definable period. Database scaling--such as adding add more storage or changing to a larger or smaller DB Instance class-- can be executed with a single API call, the company said. Developers retain control of schema, indices and controls for performance tuning.

For less complex database needs, Amazon also offers SimpleDB, with which applications can store and retrieve data using simple Web services requests. As with Amazon RDS, provisioning and maintenance are automatic, as are data indexing and backup. Amazon also provides "geo-redundant replicas of the data," which keeps data available and helps improve performance. Scaling also is automated, the company said, as the cloud responds to changes in database traffic, and schema changes can be accomplished without changes to database code.

Amazon charges no up-front fees for its Web services; you pay only for the resources you use.