Robert Oldershaw’s research on The Self Similar Cosmological Paradigm [http://www3.amherst.edu/~rloldershaw/concepts.html] recognizes that nature is organized in stratified hierarchy, where every level is similar. The shape and motions of atoms is similar to stellar systems. Similarities extend from the stellar scale to the galactic scale, and beyond.
Managing complexity greatly influences software design. Stratified hierarchy is familiar to this discipline.
At the atomic level, we organize our code into units. Each unit is a module with a boundary, which exposes its interface that governs how clients interact with this unit. The unit’s implementation is hidden behind this boundary, enabling it to undergo change independently of other units, as much as possible.
We build upon units by reusing modules and integrating them together into larger units, which themselves are modular and reusable in the same way. Assembly of modules into integrated components is the bread and butter of object-oriented programming. This approach is able to scale up to the level of an application, which exhibits uniformity of platform technologies, programming language, design metaphors, conventions, and development resources (tools, processes, organizations).
The next level of stratification exists because of the need to violate the uniformity across applications. However, the similarity is unbroken. We remain true to the principles of modular reuse. We continue to define a boundary with interfaces that encapsulate the implementation. We continue to integrate applications as components into larger scale components that themselves can be assembled further.
Enterprises are attempting to enable even higher levels of stratification. They define how an organization functions and how it interfaces with other organizations. This is with respect to protocols for human interaction as well as information systems. Organizations are integrated into business units that are integrated into businesses at local, national, multi-national, and global scales. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has demonstrated how entire enterprises exhibit such modular assembly.
This same pattern manifests itself across enterprises and across industries. A company exposes its products and services through an interface (branding, pricing, customer experience) which encapsulates its internal implementation. Through these protocols, we integrate across industries to create supply chains that provide ever more complex products and services.