Complexity: Essence and Accidents

I’d like to take a short moment to offer an additional perspective to my discussion on OSGi: Complexity is NOT the Problem. I believe this perspective adds clarity to that previous discussion, as well. All initiated thanks to a tweet, which summed up the situation in much less than 140 characters.

So over the weekend, I turned to the essay that said tweet refers, and reviewed the essence and the accidents. From the article, I quote Mr. Brooks:

“…to see what rate of progress we can expect in software technology, let us examine its difficulties. Following Aristotle, I divide them into essence – the difficulties inherent in the nature of the software – and accidents – those difficulties that today attend its production but that are not inherent.”

This leads me, pretty clearly, to the following simple conclusion.

Today, development teams leveraging OSGi to build server-side applications are burdened by accidental complexity. As platforms and tools mature, the accidental complexity of OSGi will be reduced to near zero. Modularity though, enabled and enforced by OSGi, attacks the essence.

If the difference between essential and accidental complexity isn’t quite clear, I highly recommend you take a few moments and read Mr. Brook’s essay (linked above). And then, if you can find a copy of the book’s 2nd edition, take a look at Chapter 17, “No Silver Bullet” Refired (Note: If anyone can find the Refired essay online, please post the link in comments).

Throughout these two discussions, you’ll find subtle hints extolling the virtues of modularity. But only do this if you’re willing to exercise your brain with thought, because the connection you’ll discover might just be transformational!

7 thoughts on “Complexity: Essence and Accidents

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