Well, it's Tuesday again, and today I am announcing that we have a new IBM Storage blogger joining the Blogosphere: Raj Sharma!
Raj hails from Toronto, Canada and will be able to provide the Canadian perspective on all things Storage. I had the pleasure to meet Raj in person here in Tucson when him and dozens of his cohorts came down for a multi-customer briefing at the [IBM Executive Briefing Center] where I work.
It takes me 20-30 minutes to complete a crossword or Sudoku puzzle. I am in no hurry, and I find the process relaxing. But what if you were paid to complete a puzzle? In that case, finishing the puzzle sooner, in fewer minutes, means more money in your paycheck per hour worked! However, getting paid would mean that doing these puzzles may no longer be fun or relaxing.
The idea of converting a hobby into a revenue-generating activity is not new. Who wouldn't want to earn money doing something you were planning to do already? The television is full of commercial advertisements for credit cards where you can earn Double Miles or Cash Rewards just for spending money on things you were going to spend on anyways.
But is "earn" the right word? The merchants pay a percentage fee every time a patron uses a credit card, and the bank is just providing a marketing incentive in the form of a portion of those fees back to the consumer, to encourage more usage of their card versus other forms of payment. Sort of like "profit sharing".
I am almost fell out of my chair when I saw that [iPhone app Viggle rewards couch potatoes for watching television]. For those not familiar with American slang, the term couch potato refers to [a lazy person who does nothing but sit on the couch and watch television]. But you can't be called lazy if you are getting paid to do it, right?
(FTC Disclosure: I am a full-time employee and shareholder of the IBM Corporation. This blog post should not be considered an endorsement for anything. My opinions and writings are based on publicly available information and my own experiences doing freelance work prior to my employment at IBM. I have no hands-on experience with Amazon Mechanical Turk, neither as a worker nor requester, have not participated in TopCoder contests, nor have I used the Viggle app. I do not have any financial interest in Amazon, TopCoder, Viggle or any other third-party company mentioned on this blog post, nor has anyone paid me to mention their company names, brands or offerings.)
Here's how it works. You get the app on your phone, and register each television show as you watch it. You can watch the show live, or much later recorded on your Tivo. You watch the shows you were going to watch anyways, and just provide your demographics, all in the name of market research. You get two points per minute of watching, and after 7,500 points, you get a $5 gift card from retailers such as from retailers such as Burger King, Starbucks, Best Buy, Sephora, Fandango, and CVS drugstores. For the typical American, it would take about three weeks to watch that much television!
Of course, this is not the only way to earn money working from home. A reader asked me for my opinions of [Amazon Mechanical Turk]. While the other examples above are done for marketing purposes, Mechanical Turk can be used for a variety of other things. Up to now, the IT industry has regarded the Cloud as the delivery of computing as a service, with the infrastructure, hardware and software existing on internationally networked servers, effectively invisible to the end user. This model is now to being applied broadly to people.
Basically, Mechanical Turk acts as a marketplace, where employers post Human Intelligent Tasks (HITs) that workers can do. Most can be completed in minutes and you are paid pennies to do so. Some examples might help illustrate what a HIT looks like:
As a Mechanical Turk worker, you only work on the HITs you choose to work on, presumably those that interest you, and that you can do well and quickly. Workers can do this anytime, anywhere, such as 2:00am in the morning, at home, when you can't sleep or taking care of children. You can choose to work as much or as little as you like.
The employers--referred to as Mechanical Turk requesters--put money into their payroll accounts, load up their tasks, and hit publish. This gives them immediate access to a global, on-demand 24-by-7 workforce that can help complete thousands of HITs in minutes. These employers won't have to put an advertisement in the want ads and interview potential candidates, just to let them go later when the project is over.
Just like any other job, Mechanical Turk wages are reported to the IRS, and each person's work is evaluated for quality. In doing these tasks, you build up your "digital reputation" that will either prevent you or allow you to work on certain HITs. You can also take tests to reach Qualification levels to be eligible to work on HITs not available to everyone else.
Software engineers would have a hard time writing an Artificial Intelligence [AI] program to do these simple tasks, so being able to generate a HIT for something in the middle of a computer program might be the easiest way to get past a difficult part of an algorithm. Amusingly, Amazon describes this form of [crowdsourcing] as an artificial form of Artificial Intelligence!
While this approach may work for small, easily defined tasks, what about works that require a high amount of Human Intelligence, like storage software or hardware development?
When I was working for IBM as a software engineer in the 1980s and 1990s, it took us years to get a project done, using the traditional [Waterfall Model]. My job as a software architect was to estimate the thousands of lines of code (KLOC) a project would require, estimate the number of Person-Years (PY) it would take, and recommend the appropriate sized team. Back then, each engineer averaged only about 1,000 lines of software code per year, so KLOC and PY were often used interchangeably. Fellow IBM author Fred Brooks wrote an excellent book on the process called [The Mythical Man-Month].
The Waterfall model has the advantage that people only have to work a portion of the cycle on the project. In between, there was plenty of downtime to attend training, improve your skills, or take vacation. As our director Lynn Yates would often complain, "if they are only writing two lines of code in the morning, and two in the afternoon, why do they need time to rest?"
The Waterfall model was not perfect, and had its share of critics. One downside was that the clients didn't see anything until General Availability (GA), with a few getting a glimpse a few months earlier during our Early Support Program (ESP). By the time clients could tell us it was not what they wanted or expected, it was too late to change until the next release.
To address this concern, 17 software engineers wrote the now famous [Agile Manifesto]. The authors felt that collaboration, between the developers and with the clients, is critical to success. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. The result is an iterative approach that allows the client to see working prototypes early in the process, allowing last-minute changes to requirements to influence the final product.
Combining the Mechanical Turk concept with Agile programming methodology gives you what IBM calls an "Outcomes Model" approach. In the IBM research paper [Software Economies] (PDF, 5 pages), the authors argue that there are four fundamental principles needed for an "Outcomes Model" approach:
I was surprised to see that [the TopCoder Community is 390,593 strong], nearly the size of the entire IBM company. TopCoder is focused on computer programming and digital creation using the Outcomes Model approach. Rather than paying everyone for their work, however, the platform is designed around challenges and competitions, and the top players or contributors are rewarded with cash prizes.
Does it make sense for permanent IT staff to become freelancers in an international "talent cloud"? I can understand why large corporations would prefer [international employment contracts that help circumvent restrictive regulations of certain countries], but can they convince enough people to give up social security protection, guaranteed salary, paid vacations and sick leave, just to have some added freedom and flexibility? According to Matthew Ingram from GigaOM, [many people are choosing a freelance lifestyle].
As an innovative company, IBM constantly explores a variety of means and approaches to offer value to its clients and customers. These new approaches may have some distinct advantages not just for IBM and its shareholders, but also for its clients and the freelancers hired to work on these projects. The global marketplace is getting flatter, smaller and smarter. It will be interesting how this plays out. If the discussion above encourages you to hone your technical skills, perhaps that is motivation enough to get off the couch and stop watching so much television!
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Have you ever noticed that sometimes two movies come out that seem eerily similar to each other, released by different studios within months or weeks of each other? My sister used to review film scripts for a living, she would read ten of them and have to pick her top three favorites, and tells me that scripts for nearly identical concepts came all the time. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
(I think I made my point with just a few examples. A more complete list can be found on [Sam Greenspan's 11 Points website].)
This is different than copy-cat movies that are re-made or re-imagined many years later based on the previous successes of an original. Ever since my blog post [VPLEX: EMC's Latest Wheel is Round] in 2010 comparing EMC's copy-cat product that came our seven years after IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC), I've noticed EMC doesn't talk about VPLEX that much anymore.
This week, IBM announced [XIV Gen3 Solid-State Drive support] and our friends over at EMC announced [VFCache SSD-based PCIe cards]. Neither of these should be a surprise to anyone who follows the IT industry, as IBM had announced its XIV Gen3 as "SSD-Ready" last year specifically for this purpose, and EMC has been touting its "Project Lightning" since last May.
Fellow blogger Chris Mellor from The Register has a series of articles to cover this, including [EMC crashes the server flash party], [NetApp slaps down Lightning with multi-card Flash flush], [HP may be going the server flash route], and [Now HDS joins the server flash party].
Fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC has a blog post [VFCache means Very Fast Cache indeed] that provides additional detail. Chuck claims the VFCache is faster than popular [Fusion-IO PCIe cards] available for IBM servers. I haven't seen the performance spec sheets, but typically SSD is four to five times slower than the DRAM cache used in the XIV Gen3. The VFCache's SSD is probably similar in performance to the SSD supported in the IBM XIV Gen3, DS8000, DS5000, SVC, N series, and Storwize V7000 disk systems.
Nonetheless, I've been asked my opinions on the comparison between these two announcements, as they both deal with improving application performance through the use of Solid-State Drives as an added layer of read cache.
(FTC Disclosure: I am both a full-time employee and stockholder of the IBM Corporation. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this blog post as a paid celebrity endorsement of IBM servers and storage systems. This blog post is based on my interpretation and opinions of publicly-available information, as I have no hands-on access to any of these third-party PCIe cards. I have no financial interest in EMC, Fusion-IO, Texas Memory Systems, or any other third party vendor of PCIe cards designed to fit inside IBM servers, and I have not been paid by anyone to mention their name, brands or products on this blog post.)
The solutions are different in that IBM XIV Gen3 the SSD is "storage-side" in the external storage device, and EMC VFCache is "server-side" as a PCI Express [PCIe] card. Aside from that, both implement SSD as an additional read cache layer in front of spinning disk to boost performance. Neither is an industry first, as IBM has offered server-side SSD since 2007, and IBM and EMC have offered storage-side SSD in many of their other external storage devices. The use of SSD as read cache has already been available in IBM N series using [Performance Accelerator Module (PAM)] cards.
IBM has offered cooperative caching synergy between its servers and its storage arrays for some time now. The predecessor to today's POWER7-based were the iSeries i5 servers that used PCI-X IOP cards with cache to connect i5/OS applications to IBM's external disk and tape systems. To compete in this space, EMC created their own PCI-X cards to attach their own disk systems. In 2006, IBM did the right thing for our clients and fostered competition by entering in a [Landmark agreement] with EMC to [license the i5 interfaces]. Today, VIOS on IBM POWER systems allows a much broader choice of disk options for IBM i clients, including the IBM SVC, Storwize V7000 and XIV storage systems.
EMC is not the first to manufacture an SSD-based PCIe card. Last summer, my friends at Texas Memory Systems [TMS] gave away a [RAMsan-70 PCIe card] at an after-party on [Day 2 of the IBM System Storage University].
Can a little SSD really help performance? Yes! An IBM client running a [DB2 Universal Database] cluster across eight System x servers was able to replace an 800-drive EMC Symmetrix by putting eight SSD Fusion-IO cards in each server, for a total of 64 Solid-State drives, saving money and improving performance. DB2 has the Data Partitioning Feature that has multi-system DB2 configurations using a Grid-like architecture similar to how XIV is designed. Most IBM System x and BladeCenter servers support internal SSD storage options, and many offer PCIe slots for third-party SSD cards. Sadly, you can't do this with a VFCache card, since you can have only one VFCache card in each server, the data is unprotected, and only for ephemeral data like transaction logs or other temporary data. With multiple Fusion-IO cards in an IBM server, you can configure a RAID rank across the SSD, and use it for persistent storage like DB2 databases.
Here then is my side-by-side comparison:
IBM has the advantage that it designs and manufactures both servers and storage, and can design optimal solutions for our clients in that regard.
technorati tags: IBM, XIV, Gen3, SSD, cache, EMC, VFCache, Project Lightning, SVC, Solid State Drives, Fusion-IO, Texas Memory Systems, RAMSan, System+x, POWER systems, VIOS, DRAM, VMware, Vmotion, Live Partition Mobility, AIX, IBM i, PCIe, PCI-X
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means! IBM Announcements! Typically, IBM System Storage has three to five major product launches per year. Making announcements every Tuesday would have been two frequent, and having one big announcement every two or three years would be too far apart. Worldwide combined revenues for storage hardware and software grew double digits last year, comparing full-year 2011 to the prior 2010 year, and I am sure that 2012 will also be a good year for IBM as well! This week we have announcements for both disk and tape, but since 2012 is the 60th Diamond Anniversary for tape, I will start with tape systems first.
Well, that's the first major IBM System Storage launch of 2012. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
Last week, on January 31, two of my colleagues retired from IBM. At IBM, retirements always happen on the last day of the month. Here is my memories of each, listed alphabetically by last name.
Lately, it seems employees at other companies jump from job to job, and from employer to employer, on average every 4.1 years. According to [National Longitudinal Surveys] conducted by the [US. Government's Bureau of Labor Statistics], the average baby boomer holds 11 jobs. In contrast, it is quite common to see IBMers work the majority of their career at IBM.
The next time you have a tasty beverage in your hand, raise your glass! To Mark and Jim, you have earned our respect, and you both have certainly earned your retirement!
Mark your calendars! If you work in IT and have an interest in storage, then there are two upcoming conferences you might be interested in attending!
Join a network of your peers at [IBM Pulse2012] who are fundamentally and cost-effectively changing the economics of IT and speeding the delivery of innovative products and services. With four days of top-notch education, Pulse 2012 will help you react with agility in changing competitive landscapes, reduce vulnerability throughout the service lifecycle, and continuously improve the business impact of the technology.
I presented at the very first IBM Pulse back in May 2008, which was a combination event to cover Tivoli Storage, Maximo and Netcool. For a bit of nostalgia, read my 2008 blog posts:
In 2009, IBM decided to launch its "Dynamic Infrastructure" initiative at Pulse. Here were my blog posts:
In 2010, IBM announced [Tivoli Storage Manager v6.2].
In 2011, I was unable to attend, so I sent my colleague Tom Rauchut as my on-the-scene correspondent. At this event, IBM launched its Smarter Computing initiative.
The IBM Pulse conference has certainly evolved over the past few years! The agenda is not yet finalized, so I don't know if I will be there again this year.
The second event has a new name. [IBM Edge2012] is the premier storage event that brings together innovative IBM technologies, world class training, leading industry experts, and compelling client success stories and best practices. Edge2012 is dedicated to helping you design, build and implement efficient storage infrastructure solutions.
We started doing these back in the mid-90s, entitled the "IBM Storage Symposium", then later the "IBM System Storage and Storage Networking Symposium". In 2007, I was there in Las Vegas presenting on a variety of topics. See my blog post [Storage Symposium 2007 recap].
In 2008, we had a version of the Storage Symposium down in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Not only did I present, but it was also a "book signing" event for my first book [Inside System Storage: Volume I]. Here were my blog posts: [Introduction], and [Conclusion]. We also had an event in the United States, as well as Montpelier, France, but since I already went to the one in Mexico, I let my colleagues go to these other ones instead.
In 2009, IBM experimented with combining two conferences under one roof in Chicago, IL. The IBM System Storage and Storage Networking Conference was combined with the IBM System x and BladeCenter Technical Conference. The idea was that server people would probably also be interested in storage, and storage admins might also be interested in x86-based servers. See my blog post [Storage Symposium 2009 recap].
In 2010, System Storage and System x were once again combined, held in Washington DC, but the conferences were renamed to IBM System Storage Technical University and the IBM System x Technical University to give them a common look and feel. See my blog post [Storage University 2010 review].
In 2011, not satisfied that two data points was inconclusive, IBM continued the experiment, hosting both System Storage and System x conferences in Orlando, Florida. Here were my blog posts:
The results are now in. While I think it is admirable to run multiple conferences at the same time in the same place can help reduce costs and consolidate adminstration, it can have its drawbacks also. In the case of System Storage and System x, we learned a few things:
The solution - IBM Edge. This conference is focused 100 percent on storage. There will be "Executive Edge" for decision makers to network with their peers, and "Technical Edge" for the storage admins to get the technical education they are looking for on IBM System Storage and Networking products and solutions. Please note that this conference was held in July or August in previous years, but will be held in June this year.
I am very excited about this new direction, and plan to be there in June 4-8 for this event!
My how time flies! The month is almost over, and people are asking if I plan to discuss my [New Years' Resolutions]. For those readers new to my blog, you can review the [resolutions I made in prior years]. I started blogging about my New Year's resolutions back in 2007 because IBM has a "black-out" period before it announces its year-end financial results, and I can't talk about IBM itself during that time.
Two articles gave me some insight.
Derek Silvers writes in his blog post [Shut up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them.] Here is an excerpt:
The solution for this? Spread out your resolutions throughout the year. That is the advice from Jonah Lehrer in his Wall Street Journal article [Blame it on the Brain]. Here is an excerpt:
Based on those two articles, I focused last year on a single resolution, to lose weight. It worked, I lost some weight, not as much as I wanted, and certainly not for the usual eat-
First, I tried Tim Ferris' [Four Hour Body] diet, and I had every intention to post about my progress throughout the year, but that didn't happen. The diet involved eating a restricted diet for six days--including beans, green vegetables, and lean meats--then having one cheat day where you eat a whole bunch of the bad foods you weren't allowed the prior week. The problem I had was that I got so used to eating the same way six days a week, that I forgot to cheat! On this diet, cheating is not optional, it is mandatory. Mo, on the other hand, had no problem with the cheat days, and even extended this to cheat afternoons and cheat evenings!
Mid-year, I saw the movie [Forks Over Knives]. I consulted with my doctor, and switched over to a plant-based, whole-foods diet with his approval. This is basically [dietary veganism]: no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no poultry. What's left? Lots of slow carbs like beans, spinach and quinoa, that I had already learned to cook and eat earlier on Tim Ferriss' diet, without the stress of remembering to cheat on the weekend.
The nice thing about this diet is that you can eat a lot more than usual, so you are never hungry. The bad news is that I developed a vitamin deficiency, and so my doctor asked me to switch to a relaxed mostly-vegetarian diet, with some eggs, some fish, some meat, and lots of vitamin supplements.
I thought I would start 2012 with a bunch of funny resolutions, like the ones in [Chuck & Beans], but I decided to keep things on a serious level. If you've made resolutions, do not tell anyone what they are, and try focusing on a single one at a time.
For all of you who had a bad year in 2011, I hope you have a much better one in 2012!
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Some job titles can be vague. Have you ever given your title to a person at a cocktail party, only to have to explain exactly what you do? With a title like "IBM Master Inventor and Senior Managing Consultant", this happens to me all the time. To help explain what we do at the Tucson Executive Briefing Center (EBC), I use the following analogy.
People who want to see or interact with animals have several options. One option is to go visit the animals in their natural habitat. A more convenient option, however, is to visit the animals in a zoo. Zoos bring together a wide variety of animals, making it convenient to visit all of them at one time.
I did not fully appreciate the advantage of zoos until I took a safari in Kenya, Africa a few years ago. The word safari means "long journey" in Swahili. For two weeks, we drove around in a Land Rover on bumpy roads across the country. The best time to see the animals was early in the morning and late in the afternoon. We would drive around for hours looking for a type animal we had not seen already. Most came to see the so-called "Big Five": Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhinoceros. After two weeks and hundreds of miles, we had seen the "Big Nine" which extends the Big Five to include the Cheetah, Zebra, Giraffe and Hippo, as well as seeing a variety of other, lesser known animals.
When it comes to zoos, there are two kinds.
Over the past 15 years, IBM has been consolidating storage development in Tucson, Arizona moving storage-related projects from San Jose, CA, from Rochester, MN, and from Raleigh, NC. Tucson has the largest collection of IBM storage hardware and software development in North America. I am one of the three local "docents", guiding the clients that come to Tucson to visit the developers.
(Note: I have seen other analogies to discuss groups of developers. There is an old adage: engineers are [like mushrooms: kept in the dark, covered with manure, and then canned when they are old enough]. In 2008, I had a popular blog post relating [Software Programmers as Bees]. In referring to developers as animals in the zoo in this post, I am treating them in high esteem as the star attractions of the zoo. This blog is not meant as commentary on their hygiene.)
Here are some of the types of developers that our clients ask to interact with:
On behalf of the rest of the Tucson EBC, I would like to thank all the developers who have helped us last year with client briefings. There are too many to mention, and most are too humble to let me put their names in this blog. Team, your assistance is very appreciated!
Many IBMers consider Tucson to be the headquarters for storage, and I have heard IBM executives refer to Tucson as the center of the universe for storage products. However, IBM is a global company. Just as zoos do not pretend to be complete collections of animals, IBM storage development is not entirely contained in Tucson. IBM Research for storage is also done in Almaden CA, Yorktown Heights NY, and Haifa, Israel. Hardware development is also done in Japan, Europe and Israel. Tivoli Storage has locations in Beaverton, Oregon, and Austin, Texas, to name a few. IBM is a big company, so if I left your favorite location off the list, let me know in the comments below.
Some clients, sales reps and business partners have complained that Tucson is not the most convenient location to get to. I get that. One rep asked why we don't have briefing centers somewhere more accessible, such as Chicago or Atlanta, both cities offer a major airline hub. As much as I personally enjoy cities like Chicago or Atlanta, people don't visit zoos just to see the docents, they come to see the animals. Having docents located in Chicago or Atlanta, standing sadly in front of empty cages with no animals to interact with, makes no sense at all.
With over 350 days of sunshine per year, Tucson is actually a well-kept secret. Clients who have never been to Tucson discover the wonders of the Sonoran desert. Coyotes chase roadrunners across our parking lot. Several clients who have come to visit us have ended up buying retirement homes here. If you haven't been to Tucson, or it has been a while since your last trip, I encourage you to [schedule a briefing]. The weather right now is ideal!
This week I was aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California! This was a business event organized by [Key Info Systems], a valued IBM Business Partner. Key Info resells IBM servers, storage and switches.
The Queen Mary retired in 1967, and has been converted into a hotel and events venue. The locals just parked their car and walked on board, but I got to stay Tuesday through Thursday in one of the cabins. It was long and narrow, with round windows! There were four dials for the bathtub: Cold Salt, Hot Fresh, Cold Fresh, and Hot Salt.
Stepping on the boat was like walking back in time through history! If you decide to go see it, check out the [Art Deco bar at the front of the Promenade deck. The ship is still in the water, but is permanently docked. It is sectioned off to prevent the ocean waves from affecting it, so we did not have the nauseous moving back and forth normally associated with cruise ships.
(It is with a bit of irony that we are on the Queen Mary just days after the tragedy of the [Costa Concordia], the largest Italian cruise ship that ran aground near Isola de Giglio. The captain will have to explain how he [fell into a lifeboat] before he had a chance to wait for everyone else to get safely off the shipwreck. He was certainly no [Captain Sulley]! I am thankful that most of the 4,200 people survived the incident.)
Special thanks to Lief Morin for sponsoring this event, Raquel Hernandez from IBM for coordinating my travel, and Pete, Christina and Kendrell from Key Info Systems for organizing the activities!
technorati tags: IBM, Queen Mary, Key Info, Art Deco, Costa Concordia, Lief Morin, Pat O'Rourke, Power 795, DS8000, XIV, SONAS, Tape, TS1140, LTFS, Storwize V7000, Unified storage, FCoE, BNS, VMware, Cloud Computing
Happy New Year, everyone!
I hope everyone had a nice Winter break. For my birthday last month, my good friends at [StarTech.com] sent me a nice [double-headed USB combo cable] that has both Micro-USB and Mini-USB connectors. I am always looking to reduce the number of cables I take with me on trips, and this one is perfect, as I have a Samsung 4G smart phone that uses the Micro-USB connector, and a Canon PowerShot digital camera that uses the Mini-USB connector.
(FTC Disclosure: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this a "celebrity endorsement" for StarTech's product. I have used the cable and it works as expected. My review is based on my own experience using the cable, and information publicly available. IBM and StarTech are independent companies. Aside from giving me this nice cable at no cost, I have not received any payment from StarTech or any other third party to mention them or their product on this blog, I am not affiliated with StarTech in any way, nor do I have any financial interest in their company.)
When the [Universal Serial Bus] standard first came out in the mid-1990s, my colleagues and I were all excited that this will finally put an end to all the proprietary plugs and cables that each manufacturer seemed to waste their time re-inventing the wheel with yet another cable connector. For the most part, USB has simplified this, and the USB cable can be used for both data transfer and for power charging.
Today, there are many alternatives to using a cable for data transfer, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but people are finding that their smart phones and other devices run out of juice way too often. At various conferences, I have seen several people panic looking for an electrical outlet to charge their device, and a few brazen enough to ask other attendees, "Can I plug my phone into your laptop?"
(Caution: Be careful allowing strangers to plug their device into your USB port, as this can provide data transfer in addition to power charging, spreading viruses or other malicious intent. On my Lenovo Thinkpad T410, one of the USB ports is colored yellow and is always powered on, even when my laptop is in suspend or hibernation mode. This would be a safe way to allow someone to charge off your power without concern for data transfer in either direction.)
Recently, I have flown on airplanes where each seat had a USB charging port, ideal if you want to listen to music or watch a video on your device. I have also driven a rental carthat had USB charging ports in addition to the traditional cigarette lighter option, especially useful if you need to make an emergency phone call at the side of the road, or if you are using the GPS navigation feature to find your way. These are both a good step in the right direction!
Carrying one cable instead of two might not seem like much of a big deal, but if you think about it, complexity in the IT industry is all about the number of cables admins have to deal with. The push from 1GbE to 10GbE can help reduce the number of cables. Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) takes it one step further, allowing NFS, CIFS, iSCSI and FCoE to all flow over a single cable. This can greatly reduce complexity in your IT environment.
If you are interested in reducing the complexity in your IT environment, contact your local IBM Business Partner or sales representative.