Breaking down the definition
A framework is a general environment into which components and individual objects can be placed in order to provide more specific function. For example, a health care framework might have functions and settings that handle regulations and common practices. The individual components and objects within this framework -- perhaps representing practices, insurance groups or even individual physicians -- provide more specific function within the system and rely on the framework to provide the more general environment and rules for their operation.
The easiest way to conceive of the level of granularity is to determine how much processing is performed when a given function of the component is invoked. For instance, say we had a component representing an automobile. A fine level of granularity of its functions might be represented by functions such as "fire spark plug" or "inject fuel." A coarse level of granularity might be represented by the function "accelerate," which encompasses many finely-tuned actions.
The interface is the nature of the functions we can invoke on the component, and the protocol for invoking them. A formal interface for a component representing an encryption system might be of the form "take the given character string, encrypt it, and return the result as another character string. If there is an error, return a null object instead."
Note that there are two broad categories of component technologies: visual components and network components. Visual components include Borland's Delphi and the original JavaBeans. They are usually ways to snap widgets seamlessly into user interfaces within a single code base. Network components are a very different breed, and this article and the associated XML messaging tutorial series focuses on network components.
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