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When you think about the biggest challenges facing large companies running data centers it usually comes down to two things. The first major problem is the utilization rate of servers, which typically hovers between 15-25 percent. The second problem is the ongoing costs associated with powering the systems in those data centers and the energy expended on cooling them.

Oddly enough, just as large corporations are looking for new ways to reduce the costs associated with managing data centers, many solution providers are looking for ways to cost-effectively create a data center that can be used to drive a suite of managed service applications.

So you might think that there would be an opportunity to partner with a large enterprise to leverage all the excess server horsepower that might be available.

If that sounds far-fetched then consider the case of Gedas, a member of the T-Systems Enterprise Services Group in Germany, that provides managed services. Gedas was formed out of joint venture between Volkswagen and the Frankfurt Airport. Under the terms of the venture, both Volkswagen and the Frankfurt Airport agreed to transfer their data center assets to the Gedas joint venture. In return, Gedas uses the excess data center capacity of the two organizations to deliver additional managed services to a broad range of small-to-medium enterprise customers. In effect, both Volkswagen and the Frankfurt Airport turned what used to be a liability into a profit center that helps pay for the upkeep of their data centers.

According to Bernd Hohnel, Gedas division manager for application and systems, the biggest challenge the joint venture now faces involves rationalizing the two divergent sets of technologies being used by Volkswagen and the Frankfurt Airport.

But if you think that was creative, wait until you hear about how Gedas goes about drumming up leads for the business. They have basically partnered with APC to create a showroom for APC products in their data center. The local APC salespeople then use this showroom to bring potential customers to a data center where they can see APC products in action. And of course, every customer that comes in the door with an APC sales person is also a candidate for the managed services provided by Gedas.

As the economy continues to head down an uncertain path, solution providers are going to have to get a lot more creative about forming cost-effective business models. The Gedas example may not work for everybody, but there is certainly no reason why it could not be replicated any number of times in the United States. CIOs everywhere are under pressure to contain costs so anybody who comes to them with a creative idea for turning data center investments into a profit center is going to get a hearing. Most CIOs have no idea how to run a business so they would not be able to accomplish this without the aid of a trusted partner, which in many cases is already their local solution provider. So maybe the time has finally come to take that relationship to the next level.