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A file by any other name: Managing file names with metadata


File names are one of the earliest computing abstractions, a string of characters to uniquely identify a file for the system, and to help users remember the contents when they look for it later. They are also a rich source of semantic metadata about files. However, this metadata is unstructured and opaque to the rest of the system. As a result, metadata in file names is often error-prone, and hard to search for. File names can and should be more meaningful and reliable, while simplifying application design and encouraging users and applications to provide more metadata for search. We describe a POSIX compliant prototype file system, TrueNames, which demonstrates an alternate approach to naming and metadata, called metadata aware naming. TrueNames separates the task of uniquely identifying a file from the task of helping the user remember its contents. It captures metadata in a structured format for later indexing, and uses it to generate file names which are correct, regenerable, and disambiguatable by design. TrueNames simplifies application design by providing a consistent interface for metadata aware naming, incurs a low overhead of approximately 15[%] under realistic workloads, and can simplify a wide variety of data management tasks for both applications and users.

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