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WinFS heads for Microsoft database

In the latest switch of plans, Redmond delays beta 2 and will deliver an unstructured data store in the next version of SQL Server.

Microsoft has decided to initially use technology from its WinFS project in the SQL Server database, rather than Windows.

Quentin Clark, who runs the WinFS program management team, disclosed the company's plans in a blog posting on Friday. He said that the next version of SQL Server, code-named Katmai, will incorporate features from WinFS to store unstructured data and automate administration.

In 2003, Microsoft described WinFS as one of the "pillars" of Windows Vista, which is due early next year. The company then decided to pull that feature out of Vista, then known as Longhorn, while continuing to develop it.

The original goal of WinFS--a concept talked about at Microsoft for many years--was to provide a unified file system for all Windows applications. Instead of having a special file format for each application, such as Outlook mail, WinFS would serve all applications.

Microsoft has not precluded using WinFS in Windows but the decision to put portions of it in SQL Server means that WinFS will not be delivered as a separate component, Clark said.

"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 (Server) and ADO.NET, we do not need to deliver a separate WinFS offering," Clark wrote in his blog.

In an interview earlier this month, the vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business, Bob Muglia, said that a second beta of WinFS was slated for the fall. Muglia added that WinFS could be used in Windows as well in Microsoft's Office products.

Comments posted to Clark's blog voiced disappointment with the latest twist in WinFS strategy.

"The bottom line is that WinFS was promoted as a Windows component that would enhance the file system and provide a new platform for data storage for Windows apps. And this is now dead. No amount of spin is going to cover that up," wrote one commenter.

Katmai, the successor to SQL Server 2005, is expected to be released in two or three years, Microsoft executives have said.