Microsoft On Track For WinFS Client Beta 2

client WinFS

Executives said the forthcoming WinFS client will align to a post Windows Vista release but they declined to specify a ship date. The WinFS file system and relational store was originally planned to be integrated into Windows Vista and Windows Longhorn server but was pushed beyond 2007.

"We've been taking our time to get the technology right and that hasn't changed," said Quentin Clark, product unit manager of the WinFS project in SQL Server.

Still, at Tech Ed 2006 in Boston, Microsoft executives demonstrated some code from a public beta to be released this fall -- the beta 2 release -- which is further along than the first beta made available to developers in September of 2005, Clark said.

He said the public beta coming this fall won't be full featured but he noted the data model is now finished and the API set is far more developed than in the previous beta.

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"It'll be a real beta and we'll be encouraging people to do real testing," said Clark. "The big thing is the information model for end users."

Clark detailed, for example, the benefits of the new WinFS information model, cross application data sharing capabilities and two-way synchronization with external data sources.

He also touted WinFS as a robust data platform on which partners and customers can build Outlook 11, Outlook Web Access and Smartphone applications.

Executives also discussed plans to offer built-in schemas and tools to ease development for partners and developers. "We'll build a visual schema design tool," said Roger Lueder, a software development engineer at Microsoft. 'So you may not have to."

WinFS is a combination of a relational database and file system for storing application data, a set of APIs and built-in services such as search and synchronization.

At Tech Ed, Microsoft demonstrated a prototype synchronization adaptor for Exchange that showed how a developer can associate disparate items such as a calendar item with other data types. Sethu Kalavakur, a lead program manager at Microsoft, said during another Tech Ed 2006 presentation that WinFS will enable these relational capabilities while also offering backward compatibility for existing applications via support for Win32 APIs and NTFS. He also noted WinFS will offer automated backup capabilities and management features such as automated recovery from data corruption.

Microsoft also is working to integrate its system auto-administration features into WinFS, he said.

Still, he and still other Microsoft executives urged developers at Tech Ed to begin developing WinFS client applications and new WinFS data types.

Microsoft's Lueder said the beauty of WinFS is its ability to create relationships between disparate data types in arbitrary fashion, such as a photo of a wine label with a calendar entry for a wine tasting event, a handwritten annotation and a phone contact.

But there's more value-add, he said.

WinFS sync makes it easy to build two-way sync with external data sources and work with data stored anywhere, said Lueder. "WinFS makes it easy to work with application data but the really cool thing is WinFS really enables the re-use of application data. You should take advantage of WinFS Beta 2 when it finally comes out."

Solution providers and partners say WinFS will be an important technology but it's still too early to start development and testing.

WinFS is not aligned with Vista or Office 2007, Microsoft executives acknowledged. And the WinFS server code has not yet entered beta testing, others noted.

"I think WinFS interest is dependent on access and availability," said Tyson Hartman, CTO of Avanade Americas, Seattle, during an interview at Tech Ed. "As it's more widely available the interest will grow."