Update 2: comments on WinFS capabilities...
Across the network you could still use it as a WinFS if you have WinFS installed. If you don't, it's just a file system, so you're not locked to it. It might be better just to use a common, standard, protocol; the idea that it's appropriate to degenerate to file system behavior is just retro
Update 1: Michael Lucas-Smith has another useful take on WinFS. I am not as thrilled by the synchronizing capabilities in these local pseudo-databases as he seems to be. I have a different interpretation of the Network being the Computer. Michael suggests a Topic Maps-like capability on top of databases or files or whatever might be more useful than WinFS. I agree with this, and I agree having to rewrite apps is a problem. Those seem like two different issues though that each need to be addressed.
I do agree with one vision of WinFS... I think we need easier structuring as well as semi-structuring mechanisms. A relational database is a structuring mechanism. A topic map is a "semi-structuring" mechanism. Big old-fashioned databases are good at structuring, it's just they suck at ease of use and ease of operations.
Michael points out some capabilities of SQL Server (and Oracle). For example they *can* act as file systems. But who uses them as file systems? Which goes more to the point: These more mature databases are too cumbersome. However file systems are too limited. WinFS is trying to hit somewhere in between. I think they are aiming at the wrong target.
Hopefully Microsoft is heading toward better support for unstructured data. But if WinFS is the best they can do for *structured* data... they should try again. A "local" filesystem/database with some proprietary synchronization capabilities is just not what I think we need. If we're going to rewrite systems for the formal aspects of structuring data then we can do better than a system which appears to be something less than a Lotus Notes database at best.
The bottom line for me is: whatever WinFS *is*, well, it should be *that* for the network. WinFS should not be something for me if it happens to be running on my specific box, something else for you if it happens to be running on some other specific box.
End Update 1
A telling quote in the Channel 9 piece on WinFS...
"WinFS -- to the rest of the world it's important that it looks like a file system"A better philosophy would be this:
To the rest of the world it is important that it looks like WinFS.But apparently the WinFS team has not entered the age of the network is the computer. I think that is what is important to "the rest of the world." Why degrade capabilities over the network?