Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Difference of Opinion

So much of what passes for software industry analysis is pretty bland and polite, so it is perhaps refreshing to see a fiercely argued difference of opinion emerging between Jason Bloomberg at ZapThink and Ron Ten-Hove at Sun Microsystems.

Jason views SCA and JBI as little more than vendor politics and hype [SearchWebServices May 31st 2007]. As a key player in the game, Ron is clearly offended by this opinion and insists that ZapThink should rethink SCA and JBI.

It is often difficult to make judgements about abstract artefacts such as SCA and JBI. We need to have clear answers to four sets of questions, which Aristotle called the Four Causes.
  • Formal cause. What exactly is the nature of the artefact? Is it a (proposed) standard, an architecture, a layer within an architecture, a platform, or something else? (It doesn't help of course that each of these terms has multiple shades of meanings.)
  • Material cause. What has gone into its production? What are the constructs and principles on which it is based?
  • Efficient cause. What has been the process? What stage of the process have we reached? Who has participated in the process?
  • Final cause. What purpose does it serve? For whom?
It seems to me that Jason is basing his conclusions on the technical and political background of the SCA and JBI initiatives. He is therefore reasoning from Material and Efficient Cause to Formal and Final Cause.

Meanwhile, Ron is arguing from Formal Cause ("standard services model") and Final Cause ("the need for service composition"). If SCA and JBI fall short of these requirements, this is because the process isn't complete.

Ron avers there are lots of factual errors in Jason's interview. But it is not the factual accuracy that is really at issue here, but the fact that they are simply not talking about the same thing.

And it is only when people disagree that the basis for the disagreement becomes visible. This is why vigorous disagreement is much better than vague agreement.

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