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Microsoft sidelines Longhorn database caper

NTFS reprieved

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Microsoft has scaled back its 'Big Bang', and its Future Storage initiative will build on, rather than supersede the NTFS file system, when the next version of Windows 'Longhorn' appears in 2005.

The news emerged from WinHEC last week as Paul Thurrot confirms in a round-up here.

"The oft-misunderstood Windows Future Storage (WinFS), which will include technology from the "Yukon" release of SQL Server, is not a file system," reports Thurrot. "Instead, WinFS is a service that runs on top of - and requires - NTFS."

There seems to be some confusion over at ComputerWorld, which maintains that "WinFS replaces the NTFS and FAT32 file systems used in current Windows versions," but we're inclined to back Paul on this one, as he supports his case with a direct quote.

"WinFS sits on top of NTFS. It sits on top of the file system. NTFS will be a requirement," says Microsoft's Mark Myers. (InfoWorld also refers to a WinFS as a "file system"). Myers is an 'OEM Manufacturing Program Manager' at Microsoft, whatever that means.

This much is clear: technology will be'borrowed' from Yukon, the next version of Microsoft's SQL Server, but the core will be a NTFS, not a new native raw format which only the local copy of SQL Server can read.

As first revealed here almost two years ago (when the next version of Windows was codenamed Blackcomb), "SQL Server itself becomes the base storage engine, and NTFS becomes an API-compatible driver into the store."

With so much planned for Longhorn, replacing a debugged and mature file system may have proved too radical. At least for now. Microsoft can portray this as a stepping stone to a raw native database, and as the BeOS experience proved, you don't have to have a database at the core of the system to provide database-like functionality.

Microsoft has the same goal as before, but is opting for an evolutionary rather a revolutionary route.

Also planned for Longhorn is a new graphics engine that throws much of the work onto the graphics card, much like Apple's Quartz Extreme [926kb PDF], or Stardock's WindowFX [vendor]. The new Longhorn GUI is called Aero (surely it's just an elemental coincidence that Apple's is called Aqua) and will require a graphics card with 128MB of memory.

Longhorn will drop support for FAT and FAT32 file systems.

Thurrot identifies WinFS as a service - but how long will it take for the world+dog to note that the 'FS' in WinFS does not stand for 'file system'? ®

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