Click here to close now.



Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Mihai Corbuleac, David Bermingham

Related Topics: Microsoft Cloud

Microsoft Cloud: Article

WinFS: The Windows Storage Platform of the Future

How to Write Applications that Take Advantage of WinFS

The next version of the Windows operating system (codenamed "Longhorn") has a new storage subsystem (codenamed "WinFS"). In this article, we will try to understand the need for "WinFS"; define "WinFS", its type system, and its data model; and learn how to write applications that take advantage of "WinFS".

Why Does Windows Need a New Storage Subsystem?
The hardware industry is confidently striding towards conquering the 3T challenge (a teraflops processor, a terabyte hard disk, and a terabits per sec bandwidth). Increase in the size of hard disk storage has been complemented by the exponential increase in the production of digital data. The amount of digital data being born daily is so phenomenal that the pen, the paper, and the typewriter have achieved the status of endangered stationery. Digital data is stored by operating systems on magnetic media - like hard disks. Windows uses file systems like NTFS and FAT32 to organize data on hard disks that are divided into logical drives. Each drive has a root folder, which can have one or more files and folders. Data is stored in files.

Data has personality. It can be documents (text, DOC, PDF, RTF, PostScript formats), images (bitmap, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WMF formats), audio (WAV, MP3, WMA, AIFF, formats), video (MOV, MPEG, AVI, ASF, QuickTime formats), and more. Along with data, these formats also store rich metadata. NTFS and FAT32 are capable of reading only basic metadata from files, like their name, size, date modified, and type (derived from the file extension). So, if I want to search all songs of a particular artist, I can't do it just by using the file system. I'll need a specialized application like Windows Media Player, which is capable of reading the rich metadata provided by all audio files.

What is "WinFS"?
"WinFS" is the Windows storage platform of the future. It solves many of the problems associated with current file systems by storing data and its metadata together. This way data can be organized, searched, shared, and related depending upon what it is and not what it's called (filename)! "WinFS" also makes it easy to deal with non-file-backed data like personal contacts, e-mail messages, and event calendar.

"WinFS" allows a user to organize data with great flexibility. Using "WinFS", a user can group data according to common characteristics, create a customized containment hierarchy to hold data, and associate one piece of data to another via relationships. This organizational flexibility provides the user with greater flexibility when searching for data. The user can search for data based on its attributes, its relationship with other data, and by its storage location.

Searching Data
Because of its ability to organize data based on various parameters, "WinFS" presents data as a directed acyclic graph (DAG) instead of as a tree (as in NTFS and FAT32). In NTFS and FAT32, since data is stored as a tree, it can be located based only on a single criteria (its directory path), while in "WinFS", since data is stored as a graph it can be searched based on multiple criteria.

Sharing Data
"WinFS" facilitates data sharing among various applications by giving file-backed data (documents, audio video, media, and so on) as well as non file-backed (e-mail, contacts, appointments, and so on), permanent residency status in the operating system and providing a unique API to access them. Now different applications can use these common pieces of data without worrying about maintaining individual data stores and the associated synchronization.

WinFS Building Blocks
Figure 1 illustrates the various building blocks of "WinFS".

Core "WinFS"
"WinFS" does not supplant NTFS; rather, it utilizes the basic file system services of NTFS. The core building block of "WinFS" includes the relational storage engine that provides file system services like ACL support, import/export, and quota management.

Data Model
"WinFS" defines a rich data model that resides on top of a relational storage engine. "WinFS" represents a piece of data (item) as a tuple in a relation. The attributes of the tuple describe the piece of data. Items can be related to each other by defining relationships between the tuples. "WinFS" also provides the ability to extend items and relationships.

Schemas
"WinFS" has built-in schemas to understand the rich metadata associated with your data. Some of the built-in schemas are for common data like documents, e-mail, contacts, appointments, tasks, and more. "WinFS" also allows you to write custom schemas for your own data.

"WinFS" provides certain services like synchronization and rules. These services are layered on top of core "WinFS" and provide "WinFS" with extended functionality. For example, the synchronization service enables you to synchronize two or more "WinFS" stores.

APIs
"WinFS"provides support for multiple programming models: object-oriented, relational, and XML based. "WinFS" can also be programmed using the Win32 API.

"WinFS" Type System Basics
"WinFS" is a "strongly typed" storage system. All data stored in "WinFS" is typed; that is, it is an object of some "WinFS" type. To understand the "WinFS" type system, we first have to understand the following four concepts:

  • Items: All data is stored in WinFS  as a type specialized from Item (System.Storage.Item). Examples of types that derive from the Item are: Contact, Document, Task, and Event (all of which are found in the System.Storage.Core namespace)
  • ScalarTypes: An atomic piece of information that describes an item.
  • NestedTypes: A set of information that can be stored about an item. A nested type can have other nested types and scalar types in it.
  • Relationships: Relate one item (source) to another (target). Relationships can be of three types:
    - Holding relationship: The source controls the lifetime of the target. These relationships are many-to-many, that is, a source can "hold" multiple targets and a target can be "held" by multiple sources. If a target looses all sources, it's deleted.
    - Reference relationship: Similar to a holding relationship but without the lifetime management of the target.
    - Embedding relationship: The source embeds the target. Strictly one-to-one.

Programming "WinFS"

In this section, we'll take a brief look at the object-oriented managed API provided by "WinFS". This API allows us to search, relate, and act upon data stored by WinFS

.An installation of Longhorn will have a single instance of "WinFS" service running on it. A "WinFS" instance can maintain multiple data stores. Each data source is referenced by its UNC path syntax as shown below:

\\<machine-name\<data-store-name>

All "WinFS" instances have a default store (DefaultStore). The default store on your "Longhorn" system will be called:

\\localhost\defaultstore

To program "WinFS", you have to get hold of an ItemContext object. This is done by calling the static Open method of the ItemContext class. The method is passed the UNC path of the store you want to program. If you pass nothing, the ItemContext refers to the default store.

All the types that are required to program "WinFS" can be found in three assemblies: System.Storage. dll, System.Storage.Schema.dll, and WinCorLib.dll.

As an example, Listing 1 is code that prints out all folders in the default store.

A very useful class provided by "WinFS" is the ItemSearcher (System.Storage.ItemSearcher) class, which allows you to search for items in a particular item type. Each item type (for example, Contact, Document, Folder, Event, and so on) has a static method called GetSearcher that takes in the ItemContext object and returns the ItemSearcher. Using the ItemSearcher, you can search for the items you need.

For example, Listing 2 uses the ItemSearcher to search for all documents whose title begins with the string 'Result'.

Conclusion
In this brief survey of "WinFS", we have seen that the future of data is with context-based storage systems. "WinFS" will provide the basis on which advanced data-mining tools are going to be built for the personal computer.

More Stories By Mujtaba Syed

Mujtaba Syed works as a software architect with Marlabs Inc. He is an MCSD
(early achiever) and loves to speak about and write on Microsoft .NET. Mujtaba has been programming the Microsoft .NET Framework since its beta 1 release. His current interests are focused on Longhorn.

Comments (2) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Mujtaba Syed 06/08/04 03:11:22 PM EDT

It''s corrected now.

Mujtaba Syed 06/08/04 02:29:18 PM EDT

Somehow the online version is showing WinFX at all places it should show WinFS! We will get this rectified ASAP. Thanks.

@ThingsExpo Stories
"delaPlex is a software development company. We do team-based outsourcing development," explained Mark Rivers, COO and Co-founder of delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effi...
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. He cited examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He also highlighted how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable ...
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate a...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, discussed how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to imp...
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
Connected devices and the industrial internet are growing exponentially every year with Cisco expecting 50 billion devices to be in operation by 2020. In this period of growth, location-based insights are becoming invaluable to many businesses as they adopt new connected technologies. Knowing when and where these devices connect from is critical for a number of scenarios in supply chain management, disaster management, emergency response, M2M, location marketing and more. In his session at @Th...
Basho Technologies has announced the latest release of Basho Riak TS, version 1.3. Riak TS is an enterprise-grade NoSQL database optimized for Internet of Things (IoT). The open source version enables developers to download the software for free and use it in production as well as make contributions to the code and develop applications around Riak TS. Enhancements to Riak TS make it quick, easy and cost-effective to spin up an instance to test new ideas and build IoT applications. In addition to...
When people aren’t talking about VMs and containers, they’re talking about serverless architecture. Serverless is about no maintenance. It means you are not worried about low-level infrastructural and operational details. An event-driven serverless platform is a great use case for IoT. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Animesh Singh, an STSM and Lead for IBM Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, will detail how to build a distributed serverless, polyglot, microservices framework using open source tec...
Apixio Inc. has raised $19.3 million in Series D venture capital funding led by SSM Partners with participation from First Analysis, Bain Capital Ventures and Apixio’s largest angel investor. Apixio will dedicate the proceeds toward advancing and scaling products powered by its cognitive computing platform, further enabling insights for optimal patient care. The Series D funding comes as Apixio experiences strong momentum and increasing demand for its HCC Profiler solution, which mines unstruc...
IoT offers a value of almost $4 trillion to the manufacturing industry through platforms that can improve margins, optimize operations & drive high performance work teams. By using IoT technologies as a foundation, manufacturing customers are integrating worker safety with manufacturing systems, driving deep collaboration and utilizing analytics to exponentially increased per-unit margins. However, as Benoit Lheureux, the VP for Research at Gartner points out, “IoT project implementers often ...
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his Day 2 Keynote at @ThingsExpo, Henrik Kenani Dahlgren, Portfolio Marketing Manager at Ericsson, discussed how to plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change t...
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
Presidio has received the 2015 EMC Partner Services Quality Award from EMC Corporation for achieving outstanding service excellence and customer satisfaction as measured by the EMC Partner Services Quality (PSQ) program. Presidio was also honored as the 2015 EMC Americas Marketing Excellence Partner of the Year and 2015 Mid-Market East Partner of the Year. The EMC PSQ program is a project-specific survey program designed for partners with Service Partner designations to solicit customer feedbac...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Bsquare has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For more than two decades, Bsquare has helped its customers extract business value from a broad array of physical assets by making them intelligent, connecting them, and using the data they generate to optimize business processes.
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...