HP, Dell, 3PAR: Bidding war or done deal?

August 24, 2010 – We should probably just let this drama play out and then comment on it, but who can resist? As the storage world waits for Dell’s response to HP’s $1.6 billion counter-offer for 3PAR, I thought I’d take a stab at some of the questions that are being bandied about.

Will Dell counter? At first, I thought this was a done deal for HP. In an acquisition context, a 33% raise leads to an opponent folding. Then again, maybe this “I’ll see your $1.15 billion and raise you $450 million” is just these guys anteing up. This pot could get close to, or exceed, $2 billion.

Yes, I think Dell will counter, but I don’t think it would be wise. And the reason for that leads me to the next question.

Is 3PAR better for HP or Dell? I think it’s better for HP, but this is highly arguable.

HP has a solid high-end lineup with the HDS OEM deal, but I doubt that HP’s Dave Donatelli (formerly with EMC) is a reseller type of guy. 3PAR gives HP its own technology, and possibly a better weapon against EMC. The question would then be: What would HP do with the HDS line? And if HP follows Oracle’s suit on that, What becomes of HDS? (HP execs said that they would continue with the HDS partnership, business as usual.)

HP knows how to sell really high-end gear, which can’t be said about Dell. Plus, if Dell winds up acquiring 3PAR it would have to then follow up with a string of risky, blockbuster acquisitions to really own the IT stack. And even Dell’s war chest would be seriously depleted after a long series of billion dollar acquisitions.

If this deal pushes upward of $2 billion, there would be a lot of pressure on Dell to prove that it can play in the IT stratosphere, which is questionable. Dell obviously had a lot of success with the EqualLogic acquisition, but instead of going right to the very high end with 3PAR (and thus going head-to-head with EMC), it seems like a stepping-stone approach might have made better sense (e.g., acquiring BlueArc or Compellent or Isilon or Xiotech, etc.)

Will other suitors jump in? Doubtful. The only possibilities are IBM, EMC, NetApp or Oracle, and of those only Oracle is rich enough and nuts enough (see “Who will Oracle acquire next?” ). If Oracle wants another storage product line, my money is on (and Larry’s money is in) Pillar Data.

If IBM or EMC made a move for 3PAR it would (a) be admitting that their existing high-end arrays aren’t up to snuff and (b) create too much confusion among customers and overlap in product lines. For $1.6 billion+, there are much better acquisitions for IBM or EMC to make.

NetApp could probably afford 3PAR, but does NetApp really want to get into another big-time bidding war? Been there, done that.

I think we’re in for a bidding war, but there will only be two players at the table.

Related blog post:
HP’s bid for 3PAR not its first

Recommended blog: Stephen Foskett’s “Everyone Loves 3Par: Here’s Why”


posted by: Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson, Editor-in-Chief
by Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson has been the Editor-in-Chief of InfoStor since its inception in 1997. He previously held editorial positions at publications such as Datamation, Systems Integration, and Digital News and Review. He can be contacted at dsimpson@quinstreet.com

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