3PAR DellPAR vs HPAR - a pair of pars, but are they at par?

First, let me say we need a third bidder to really do justice to 3PAR's name. IBM, can you step up to the plate? Oracle's out obviously, with all those wild Pillar, StorageTek and ZFS relationships (talk about needing a mindmap).

But given the entertainment thrown forth by HP today, what's up with this bidding war? Does HP really want 3PAR? Evidently so, according to Kevin Komiega, on this one and very same InfoStor blogging forum. Evidently, as says Kevin, HP has asked before for 3PAR to dance, but perhaps with a bad pickup line and the hope for misguided judgement from the imbibition of the moment. Now, during festivities at the engagement party, HP has decided that the potential bride is many times more appealing than they once before thought on the dance floor. What's the attraction? Could HP have a place for 3PAR? Could the place be a room in the castle, or merely a dungeon, in which to hold the beautiful bride of a detested nemesis?

I suspect that 3PAR may find a bit of both at HP - part honored bride, part locked away princess. Undoubtedly 3PAR won't end up in the dungeon, but compared to the bridal suite that may await them at Dell, 3PAR may find they are required to fulfill a rather rote role in HP-land, perhaps restricted to a few quiet towers in the pleasant, but unexciting wings in a single palace in HPdom. That isn't to belittle HP, or the opportunity inherent in being even a small part of a portfolio as large as HP's. Certainly even the possibility of being the next generation EVA, not to mention a good slice of the XP footprint, is a possibility that should be mindboggling in any relatively small vendor's eyes. It is simply that Dell, if they know what's good for them, may look at 3PAR through lenses that say they could be much more than simply storage.

The difference rests in seeing storage as more than just blocks and bytes. Too many overlook that 3PAR has been quietly building an ecosystem that is based on services above and beyond that block layer found within their arrays - when I say services, I mean in the application technology sense. In a cloudy cloudy world, those services are what will take 3PAR well beyond the goal-line.Much like Intel might in fact do with McAfee.

It is worth examining which of these vendors might be able to leverage the possibilities unleashed by seeing storage as the delivery and consumption of services. My 2 bits - HP has more assets in their IP portfolio and labs of just this sort. But we seldom see them emerge from the labs, or coalesce into business strategy. Meanwhile often under or unobserved, Dell has shifted into a major business transformation, and that transformation may well survive or even excel through the embrace of compute and storage services. Dell is at half swing in their transformation, where the returns will be determined by follow through, and one leg is planted firmly on storage. But more important than this, the other legs of Dell's transformation may be planted firmly on the consumption of IT services. And therein the attraction to 3PAR may be increased.

Undoubtedly part of the ping-pong death match over 3PAR is fueled by a defensive "that would be a competitive threat" strategy. But looking at the post acquisition possibilities, 3PAR may give HP a great technology asset, and become a killer EVA and partial XP replacement. 3PAR at Dell may be a transformative asset, giving Dell both a bigger and traditionally FC storage platform, but just as importantly serve as a platform for the next generation of Dell business as well. When you're talking pure dollars behind next year's storage systems, 3PAR looks like a good buy for either Dell or HP. But when you start looking out 4 or 5 years, there's more to it, and 3PAR might just be a transformative asset for one or the other. If one vendor or the other has that vision in their sites, and I'd bet at best only one does, then we're far from being able to say who's going to cry uncle in this bidding war.

I'd say the ping pong is far from over. We might even see a member of the audience take a bold leap into the center of the table with two paddles in hand. Will that company go after a killer storage array, or the bigger picture of 3PAR's cloud services?

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posted by: Jeff Boles

Jeff Boles, InfoStor Guest Blogger
by Jeff Boles
InfoStor Guest Blogger

Jeff has a broad background of hands-on operational IT management and infrastructure engineering experience, with more than 20 years of experience in the trenches of practicing IT.
Prior to joining the Taneja Group, Jeff was director of an infrastructure and application consulting practice at CIBER and, more recently, an IT manager with a special focus on storage management at the City of Mesa, Ariz.