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Data Storage

Rethinking the Nature of Files 369

An anonymous reader writes "Two recent papers, one from Microsoft Research and one from University of Wisconsin (PDF), are providing a refreshing take on rethinking 'what a file is.' This could have major implications for the next-gen file system design, and will probably cause a stir among Slashdotters, given that it will affect the programmatic interface. The first paper has some hints as to what went wrong with the previous WinFS approach. Quoting the first paper: 'For over 40 years the notion of the file, as devised by pioneers in the field of computing, has proved robust and has remained unchallenged. Yet this concept is not a given, but serves as a boundary object between users and engineers. In the current landscape, this boundary is showing signs of slippage, and we propose the boundary object be reconstituted. New abstractions of file are needed, which reflect what users seek to do with their digital data, and which allow engineers to solve the networking, storage and data management problems that ensue when files move from the PC on to the networked world of today. We suggest that one aspect of this adaptation is to encompass metadata within a file abstraction; another has to do what such a shift would mean for enduring user actions such as "copy" and "delete" applicable to the deriving file types. We finish by arguing that there is an especial need to support the notion of "ownership" that adequately serves both users and engineers as they engage with the world of networked sociality. '"

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