Questions Surround Dell's Storage Strategy

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Is Dell on the road to becoming a true technology partner for enterprises looking to expand virtual and cloud environments? Or is it simply amassing an amalgam of random systems hoping that, eventually, something will stick?

Those questions are back on the front burner following the company's purchase of storage firm 3PAR for a hefty $1.15 billion. The deal represents an 86.5 percent premium over 3PAR's closing stock price on Friday, and it does provide 3PAR technology with an instant data center platform in which it will play an integral role in the kind of turn-key technology and support solutions that top enterprises are looking for.

Clearly, that is Dell's intent here. The company's Brad Anderson released a statement praising 3PAR's agility and ease of use, commenting that flagship systems like the InServer storage server and the InSpire architecture will provide key support for Dell PowerVault and EquaLogic systems in high-end settings. And for 3PAR itself, the company's prospect as an independent storage provider was always questionable in a market dominated by EMC, HP and other powerhouses.

Still, the key prize for Dell is 3PAR's thin-provisioning technology, according to thestreet.com's James Rogers. In an age where the cloud is coming to dominate and virtualization is increasing data loads even as it streamlines hardware profiles, the ability to manage storage resources on the fly to meet those shifting data requirements cannot be understated.

But what about storage unification, asks Wikibon's Dave Vallente. These days simplicity and elegance of design are playing as important a role in buying decisions as raw capability, so does it make sense to have two completely different storage architectures in 3PAR and EquaLogic? Perhaps the IT service geniuses at the former Perot Systems can foster a unified approach even if the platforms themselves remain independent.

But probably an even bigger question is what all of this will do to the relationship that Dell has fostered with EMC. As Dell gains more and more advanced storage technologies, will it get to a point at which integration with EMC becomes counterproductive? And if that relationship becomes severed, will support for integrated Dell/EMC systems suffer as the two former friends squabble over where their respective responsibilities lie?

Heady questions, for sure, and ones that can only be fully answered in time. But for the moment, they probably should enter into the calculations behind initial or continued investment in Dell/EMC systems.