Simon Phipps: IBM's Chief Java and XML Evangelist

September 8, 1999

Dale Dougherty

Hear Simon Phipps speak at the O'Reilly Conference on Enterprise Java, March 26-29, in Santa Clara, California. Simon is Sun's chief technology evangelist.

The role of a corporate evangelist is to promote ideas. It's a nice job—you deal in ideas, not products or systems. Helping people think about technology the way that you do is important to getting those people to work with you.

I recently caught up with Simon Phipps, IBM's Chief Java and XML Evangelist while he was in San Francisco for the XML Day at Seybold Seminars. In his keynote at Seybold, titled "Escaping Entropy Death: The Imperative of XML and Java," he sees the problem with integrating computer systems is that platform-centric dependencies are creating greater and greater complexity. The role of Java is to provide a platform-neutral way to write programs and for XML a software-neutral to encode data.

"If we have a business relationship today, then it means we have to have a relationship between our computers," says Phipps. "If the relationship is based on something that is proprietary, then one of us is going to have to be the dominant partner." The Internet enables dynamic, peer-to-peer relationships among partners. "We will be able to share data without you forcing me to use your software or me forcing you to use my software."

Phipps also comments on the related XML standards work: XML Schema and XSL. He comments that we'll never see a single standardized vocabulary and that each company must be able to express its own view of how data is organized. What will become important are data transformations, the ability to map one vocabulary to another.

IBM's customers are excited by XML and are adopting it even faster than they adopted Java. XML and Java represent a big change for customers but it is a change with a significant difference. In the past, every time a company underwent a data transformation, it faced a software migration. Phipps believes that customers can move to XML and Java, and they will have established the independence of the data from the software, making it easier to adapt to change in the future.

Click here to listen to Audio Interview with Simon Phipps