The so-called next-gen filesystem to come from Microsoft is really looking to earn that generational distinction, and in more ways than one. Not only is the tech promising (what we know of it), but apparently it's taking much, much longer to bake than we thought.
Originally slated for release with Longhorn, it was revealed in April that WinFS was being scaled back, and wouldn't make the Longhorn desktop release. Later in August we received official word on the matter from Microsoft, who then said that they planned to release WinFS as an off-cycle development platform. Then, in late October, Ballmer said that WinFS would ship with Longhorn Server, and be available as a free add-on for Longhorn.
Yesterday Bob Muglia, Senior Vice President of the Windows Server Division, told press conference attendees that WinFS would not ship with Longhorn server, but would be delayed even beyond that. In general terms, this puts WinFS into 2008, at the earliest. Muglia has some regrets about having pumped everyone up for something that's getting pushed back on a quarterly basis now.
"We've been working on this for a long time, and this team is going to deliver," he said. "Our mistake, frankly--and it was a mistake--was to go out and talk about it before we really had clarity as to how we would be able to deliver it and all the complexities there."
Noting that WinFS is not merely "a relational database," Muglia noted that a serious revamping of the way in which filesystems are conceived of has been a longtime dream for the company, and it's something that will happen. It's just going to take longer than anyone expected. Much longer, in fact.
Microsoft has made a bit of a habit out of cutting announced features. Recently, Windows Server 2003 was launched without promised features, and the company also nixed features that were originally announced for "R2" of Server 2003. The good news is that Windows Server R2 Release Candidate 2 has gone out to beta testers, and a gold candidate is expected within just a few months. Many of the developers working on R2 will turn their attentions to Longhorn Server, and hopefully, WinFS, shortly thereafter.