August 25, 2010

The Cloud to 3PAR’s Silver Lining

Nicole Hemsoth

Cloud computing hit the mainstream media in major way this week as the war for storage vendor 3PAR raged on, sending shockwaves to the markets and leaving those who had actually heard of the Fremont, California-based company rather stunned. After all, this has not been an ordinary acquisition bid in any sense; first of all, we’re talking numbers in the billions and secondly, not everyone realized that 3PAR, although certainly an innovative company was worth that much—no matter how much their offerings might add to the increasingly robust storage (and still developing cloud) portfolios of HP or Dell.

If you didn’t happen to catch the news, Dell announced its ambitions to acquire 3PAR last week to the tune of a mere $1.15 billion and before the ink dried on that announcement, HP fired off its offer of $1.6 billion, which as the latest rumor (as of a few hours ago) states, 3PAR is ready to grab. Within 72 hours, however, we might get in more news about Dell’s counter-offer, which would not only sweeten the deal for the delighted storage company (just speculating on the delight, this has not been confirmed by sources, of course) but would skyrocket this whole story into the category of “almost implausible.”

I just sat here and mouthed the word “billion” to myself. That’s a lot of…well…anything. So what would HP or Dell be getting? And where’s the cloud to 3PAR’s silver lining since we’re on the topic?

If there was any commentary that hit the nail on the head at the beginning of the bidding war, at least in terms of giving proper headlines when they’re due, it’s certainly the Wall Street Journal blogger, Michael Corkery, who boldly asked in his title, “What’s So Great About 3PAR?”

Good question, especially in the context of a company with stock that’s been riding the $10-$13 mark before it was catapulted to fame.

In Corkery’s view, the clues are in the clouds. He reminds us that “3PAR has its head in the clouds, specifically, the cloud storage that allows for data providers to store information that can be accessed by multiple users. Such technology is highly sought after by such companies as Dell and HP that are seeking to become all things to all computer users.”

In other words, by integrating this final piece into the puzzle, Dell or HP, whoever smacks down the cash the hardest in the next few days, will have some sort of mystical domain over all things computational—from the private clouds for big business to the little cloudy-like services we as ordinary citizens use  on a daily basis.

But this is not a satisfying enough conclusion. If what followed that $1.6 started with an “m” rather than a “b” maybe, but as it stands, I am rather inclined to see the value in investment analyst Kaushik Roy’s statement: “I’m sorry, but this is insane.”

There are several who do see this move as crucial to both companies, particularly since the clouds will not be blowing away anytime soon and each giant has a wide reach across the end user spectrum. Richard Gardner, Citi analyst noted that “there is no other potential acquisition target that provides a total solution for high-performance scale-out SAN (storage area network) affording 3PAR scarcity value.”

This probably goes without saying, but none of the companies involved could be reached for any kind of statement but when the dust settles and the winner of this exceptionally valuable prize emerges it will be interesting to watch how this investment is intended to play out.

On another related note, what the big billion did for the industry as a whole was to generate conversations about cloud computing and cloud storage. I never expected to hear about cloud strategies on major cable news stations but this did get some more interested—it’s much easier to engage people when the rough equivalent of a small nation’s GDP is involved in any tech acquisition.

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