Three non-muppets walk into a bar…

I can’t shake the feeling that if Steve Vinoski, Steve Jones and Stuart Charlton had a drink together they’d actually agree on pretty much any distributed computing question that is worded in specific and unambiguous terms.

If you are not subscribed to their three blogs (and I don’t understand why you would not be if you have enough free time to read mine), here is a quick summary of the discussion so far:

Steve Vinoski writes an article critical of RPC approaches. Steve Jones doesn’t agree and explains why in a review of the article. Steve Vinoski is not impressed by the content of the review and even less by the tone. Stu sides with Steve Vinoski.

I think they all agree that, all other things equal, it is a good thing to facilitate the task of developers by providing them with intuitive interfaces. They also all agree that you can’t write distributed applications that shield the developer from the existence of a network. The key questions then boil down to:

  • what degree of network awareness do you require from developers (or what degree do you award them, for a more positive spin)?
  • what are the most appropriate programming constructs to expose that “optimal” degree of network awareness to the developers?

These questions don’t necessarily require words like “REST”, “RPC” and “JAXM” to be thrown around, other than merely as illustrative examples. In fact, the discussion so far seems to indicate that the questions are less likely to be resolved as long as these words are involved.

Once these questions are answered, we can compare the existing toolkits/frameworks (and yes, even architectural styles) to see which ones come closer to the ideal level of network-awareness and which ones present the most useful abstractions for that level. Or how each one can be improved to come closer to the sweetspot. Of course, there isn’t one level of network-awareness that is ideal for all cases, but my guess is that most enterprise applications are not too far apart on this.

[UPDATED 2008/7/27: Eric Newcomer explains it best. It’s just about finding a useful level of abstraction.]

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