HP or Dell -- which is the better suitor for 3Par?

Both companies have very deep pockets and a lot to gain

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Both HP and Dell have deep pockets. Dell reported revenue of $52 billion in its last fiscal year, and HP reported $114 billion in revenue in its fiscal year ended Oct. 31, 2009.

"It would be very odd for someone to back down soon," Peters said.

What's in it for Dell?

Dell has been acquiring storage companies for the past two years. It bought iSCSI storage company EqualLogic in 2008, network-attached storage provider Exanet in February and data compression vendor Ocarina Networks last month as part of a strategy to gather best-in-class storage products.

3Par sells storage arrays that can be clustered together to provide petabytes of capacity that can be served up to business units like a utility. The technology is especially well suited for supporting virtualized server setups and private and public cloud computing infrastructures because it can be centrally managed and scales, like building blocks, in capacity and performance.

So if Dell purchases 3Par, it gets a strong foundation on which it can build a cloud computing offering.

"Dell's bid was always and still remains about more than just storage," Peters said. "Dell wants to be more of an enterprise player in the data center, and this is part of a jigsaw piece in that puzzle."

Taneja said that while HP may appear to be the better suitor for 3Par because of its longer history with storage in the enterprise data center, Dell has proved that it knows how to handle storage acquisitions. For example, since Dell's acquisition of EqualLogic, the iSCSI storage company has seen a 63% year-over-year increase in revenue, according to Taneja.

"At the time Dell was purchasing EqualLogic, everyone was saying, 'What does Dell think it's doing? All of EqualLogic's resellers will disappear,'" Taneja said. "Man, how wrong was that?"

What about EMC, IBM -- even Oracle?

Industry analysts agreed that other data center and storage players, such as IBM, EMC and even Oracle, won't likely enter the fray between Dell and HP. For one thing, IBM and EMC already have their own enterprise-class storage arrays, so purchasing another array company would practically be an admission that their existing technology is lacking.

Oracle is still busy digesting its purchase of Sun Microsystems, which currently resells HDS's high-end arrays and offers entry-level systems from LSI Logic and midrange systems of its own. So it's also not a likely suitor, both Taneja and Peters said.

"Oracle would be a horrible place for 3Par," Taneja said. "Look at what they're doing with Sun. They're quashing all the openness. Customers were already leaving Sun. In the hands of Oracle, that has accelerated."

Peters agreed: "I think the others will stand on the side and say, 'Let them fight it out.'"

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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