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HP Tops Dell Offer For 3PAR

Just as I was sitting down to write what I thought of Dell's proposed acquisition of 3PAR, HP swooped in and offered $1.6 billion dollars for 3PAR, a third more than Dell's initial offer.  Only time will tell if this turns into an old fashioned bidding war like the one NetApp and EMC got into over DataDomain last year, but it's certainly brought some excitement to the dog days of summer.

3PAR has done a pretty good job of playing the upstart with new technology at the high, but not quite highest, end of the storage array market. Some analysts insist that you can't call an array high-end if it doesn't connect to IBM mainframes, but I think that market is pretty saturated by IBM, EMC and HDS (who, if you remember, used to make IBM plug compatible mainframes). 3PAR's been able to get into the $250 million a year sales neighborhood.

Their InServ arrays use clustered controllers to support up to 1200 drives and more significantly build data protection from "chunklets" rather than disk drives. A mirrored volume on a chunklet technology array still writes two copies of all its data, like a more conventional RAID-1 system, but the chunklet pairs can be scattered across an arbitrary set of disks in the array. Chunklet technology speeds up failed disk rebuilds, as all the disks that contain chunklets that are related to chunklets on the failed drive participate in the rebuild, not just the limited number that may have been part of the same RAID set.

This architecture is similar to the tech used by Compellent and even HP's own EVA arrays, and is also well-suited to thin provisioning. In fact, 3PAR's motto has been "Thin built in" for a while. Since the system already has to break data down into chunks and keep track of where each chunk that makes up a logical volume is stored, it also fits emerging technologies like automated tiering and data deduplication that rely on blocks being relocated or accessed by multiple logical volumes.

Dell and 3PAR essentially had no product overlap. Dell's own PowerVault and Equallogic arrays are all smaller and less powerful than even 3PAR's smallest F-series arrays. A Dell/3PAR deal would have product overlap with the EMC Clariions that Dell has been OEMing for years, but if Dell is going to complete their move to be a full line supplier to IT departments, they'd have to control their own technology.

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