Click here to close now.



Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: David Bermingham, Dana Gardner, Jayaram Krishnaswamy, Pat Romanski, Adine Deford

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
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry's single source for the cloud. Fusion's advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including clou...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
SYS-CON Events announced today that VAI, a leading ERP software provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. VAI (Vormittag Associates, Inc.) is a leading independent mid-market ERP software developer renowned for its flexible solutions and ability to automate critical business functions for the distribution, manufacturing, specialty retail and service sectors. An IBM Premier Business Part...
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
Most people haven’t heard the word, “gamification,” even though they probably, and perhaps unwittingly, participate in it every day. Gamification is “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation.” Further, gamification is about bringing game mechanics – rules, constructs, processes, and methods – into the real world in an effort to engage people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Endo, owner and engagement manager of Intrepid D...
Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless...
The IoT's basic concept of collecting data from as many sources possible to drive better decision making, create process innovation and realize additional revenue has been in use at large enterprises with deep pockets for decades. So what has changed? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Prasanna Sivaramakrishnan, Solutions Architect at Red Hat, discussed the impact commodity hardware, ubiquitous connectivity, and innovations in open source software are having on the connected universe of people, thi...
WebRTC: together these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Cary Bran, VP of Innovation and New Ventures at Plantronics and PLT Labs, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it may enable, complement or entirely transform.
For manufacturers, the Internet of Things (IoT) represents a jumping-off point for innovation, jobs, and revenue creation. But to adequately seize the opportunity, manufacturers must design devices that are interconnected, can continually sense their environment and process huge amounts of data. As a first step, manufacturers must embrace a new product development ecosystem in order to support these products.
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, showed how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants received the download information, scripts, and complete end-t...
Manufacturing connected IoT versions of traditional products requires more than multiple deep technology skills. It also requires a shift in mindset, to realize that connected, sensor-enabled “things” act more like services than what we usually think of as products. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, discussed how when sensors start generating detailed real-world data about products and how they’re being used, smart manufacturers can use the dat...
When it comes to IoT in the enterprise, namely the commercial building and hospitality markets, a benefit not getting the attention it deserves is energy efficiency, and IoT’s direct impact on a cleaner, greener environment when installed in smart buildings. Until now clean technology was offered piecemeal and led with point solutions that require significant systems integration to orchestrate and deploy. There didn't exist a 'top down' approach that can manage and monitor the way a Smart Buildi...