Exit WinFS

Remember WinFS? Windows Future Storage or Windows File System or whatever it meant? Yes one of the three pillars of Longhorn (now Windows Vista). Look, here it is:


WinFS was supposed to be the big change in how you managed your data. It would be super easy to search any kind of data. It would be possible to link files to contacts, contacts to images and so on and so forth. A slimmed down SQL server would be powering this on every desktop. It was going to be great.

Then, almost two years ago Microsoft announced WinFS was not going to make it into Longhorn, it was more work than expected. It would be beta around the release of Longhorn (now Vista). A shame, WinFS was the most interesting feature of Longhorn for me. But still Vista will have better search capabilities, but it’s not WinFS.

Two days ago the WinFS team announced the following:

There are many great technical innovations the WinFS project has created — innovations that go beyond just the WinFS vision but are part of a broader Data Platform Vision the company is pursuing. The most visible example of this today is the work we are now doing in the next version of ADO.NET for Orcas. The Entities features we are now building in ADO.NET started as things we were building for the WinFS API. We got far enough along and were pushed on the general applicability of the work that we made the choice to not have it be just about WinFS but make it more general purpose (as an aside — this stuff is really coming together — super cool).

Other technical work in the WinFS project is at a similar point — specifically the integration of unstructured data into the relational database, and automation innovations that make the database “just work” with no DBAs — “richer store” work. It’s these storage innovations that have matured to the point where we are ready to start working on including them in our broader database product. We are choosing now to take the unstructured data support and auto-admin work and deliver it in the next release of MS SQL Server, codenamed Katmai. This really is a big deal — productizing these innovations into the mainline data products makes a big contribution toward the Data Platform Vision we have been talking about. Doing this also gives us the right data platform for further innovations.

These changes do mean that we are not pursuing a separate delivery of WinFS, including the previously planned Beta 2 release. With most of our effort now working towards productizing mature aspects of the WinFS project into SQL and ADO.NET, we do not need to deliver a separate WinFS offering.

They make it seem like WinFS was about large-scale data access for enterprises, for me it wasn’t that at all. It was about managing personal data. Pictures, contacts, e-mail, music, video. Adding meta data to them, linking them. But all of that seems to be forgotten now. Anyway it’s not going to happen. That WinFS is over. Dead. This is just spinning it in a way to make it look like a super-exciting thing. A bit pathetic.