Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Serafima Al, Janakiram MSV, John Katrick

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
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
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, whic...
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
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 settle...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...