Cairo on the horizon (again).
March 13, 2002 7:00 AM   Subscribe

Cairo on the horizon (again). Balmer talks of Microsoft's intention to integrate MSDE (i.e. SQL Server) technologies into the Windows filesystem. This long sought-after utopia of unified, object-oriented storage where files and directories become irrelavant has been talked about since 1994. It may, soon, be upon us.
posted by costas (9 comments total)
Hmm, just hit the media now? I've heard of this since Feb/01. Of course it was basically in terms of how Exchange & SQL Server would merge databases, but they mentioned file-system convergance as well.

Not a bad idea, too bad Be, Newton and a slough of other operating systems actually got there first.

Of course, thanks to reality, MS and Mr. Jobs, many of these things have long since been buried...

Hmmm, I thought NTFS had "database-like" capabilities, using "alternate streams" (much like Mac "forks"). Supposedly the indexing/search service will index COM/OLE custom/meta properties, which can live in an "alternate stream" automagically.

If you use Windows NT, 2000 or XP just simply take any file, and access it's streams with a colon, for example "filename.txt:streamname". The alternate stream could include whatever metadata, in whatever format you want. And it never affects the basic data.

Sigh, in fact I had some nice plans around those streams, too bad they are not accessable using the .NET Framework. Back to writing "unsafe" code I guess...
posted by jkaczor at 7:29 AM on March 13, 2002

"We're going to have to redo the Windows shell; we're going to have to redo Office, and Outlook particularly, to take advantage" of the new data store, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a recent interview with CNET "We're working hard on it. It's tough stuff."

Remember the good old days when backward compatibility was desirable? While I applaud this long overdue effort, how many low-end PC users will be alienated from the home-computer marketplace, and how many hours on company time will be spent training employees to disregard 20 years of experience with legacy file storage technology?
posted by PrinceValium at 7:35 AM on March 13, 2002

Rumors about Longhorn have been out for months (the Register has some extensive background articles). This, though, is the first time I see an article that has a senior MS guy confirming the rumors personally.

One can argue that Newton (and Palm) had this before, but the fact that it's done for a mainstream desktop OS is huge news, IMHO.
posted by costas at 7:36 AM on March 13, 2002

Is there any effort to make a similar system occur in Linux and other Unices? I have a strong feeling that the the JFS in place now is probably a lot more efficient than a MySQL- or PostgreSQL-based file system, but it's worth asking.
posted by waldo at 8:42 AM on March 13, 2002

PrinceValium: There's no reason to think that this new file system functionality would break existing functionality or change how most people use Windows. Word's user interface doesn't change each time Microsoft dickers with the file format. Turning the file system into a database doesn't stop Microsoft from emulating the old file system, just as Windows XP emulates MS-DOS without any of the old MS-DOS code.
posted by rcade at 8:44 AM on March 13, 2002

Waldo: AFAIK, no this is not the case. However, AIX has used this DB-based FS for system admin purposes for a while, and IBM has been giving a lot of stuff to linux. Calling the new AIX, AIX 5L (L for Linux) is just the tip of the iceberg.

There's alot more to an OFS than journaling and meta-data. Think version-control (the FS will be able to undo changes for you, including deletions and modifications), network and device transparency and different levels of data access for different apps. I.e. less detail for a lightweight device, more for a more poweful one, etc.
posted by costas at 8:51 AM on March 13, 2002

I've been reading some of this on the Reg for a while now, but I'm not so au fait that it means all that much to me. Can anyone point me at something that explains the pros and cons of this kind of filesystem?
posted by jackiemcghee at 1:21 PM on March 13, 2002

is there any effort to make a similar system occur in Linux and other Unices?
It's a tad impossible to say if there's anything similar due to the lack of details from Microsoft. I'm not sure what to make of blackcomb. If it's namespaces, database filesystems and metadata then ReiserFS is similar.

NameSys (Reiser) released a whitepaper (for you jackiemcghee) which was covered in Byte magazine. The concentration on moving lots of small files about quickly has been paying off in every benchmark I've seen. I'm planning to move a few servers to Reiser over the next few weeks. Fun stuff.
posted by holloway at 1:37 PM on March 13, 2002

Hmm... My cynicism says "and there'll be all sorts of crufty DRM (Digital Rights Management - i.e., anti-copying) stuff in there".

Get ready to go to DRM hell. Want to listen to your music on two different machines? Want to read the book on your desktop at home and your palmtop on the road? Get ready to pay twice...

On the good side I'd like to see built-in file versioning and deletion recovery. VMS used to do that (in a much more primitive way) and I've missed it ever since.
posted by hadashi at 3:57 PM on March 13, 2002

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