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While CommVault is the top contender as a Dell acquisition target, other names pop up on solution providers' shortlists.
But no matter who Dell acquires, it does have to look over its shoulder at its largest partner, EMC, Bredy said.
"Dell does not want to lose its existing relationship with EMC," he said. "If that happened, it would lose customer relationships. Dell wants to sell EMC product even at a 2 percent profit. Otherwise, Dell will see its revenue drop."
For those who think Dell needs to become a software vendor to grow, an alternative to CommVault is BakBone Software, a San Diego-based data protection software vendor.
A number of solution providers called BakBone a good fit for Dell, especially because, given its relatively small size, it would be an easier acquisition than CommVault.
Bredy said Dell might also buy a small software vendor or two to get other types of technologies to enhance its existing products.
For instance, he cited Burlington, Mass.-based software vendor Acronis, a developer of technology for rebuilding downed servers on other physical or virtual servers for migration or disaster recovery.
Another possibility would be Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based DataCore Software, which allows the ability to pool low-cost storage devices to run on a single server, a high-availability server pair or on a network of multiple servers. DataCore would add certain capabilities to Dell's EqualLogic product line, including synchronous replication, making it more competitive with HP's storage line, Bredy said.
The anonymous solution provider, who works with both EMC and NetApp, said that Dell is actually the best choice to acquire Data Domain.
"Boy, I wish they'd throw their hat in the ring for Data Domain," the solution provider said. "I really don't want Data Domain to go to either NetApp or EMC. Our concern is, will EMC be smart enough to leave Data Domain alone, like they did with VMware? Our guess is no, it would be too easy for EMC to make it part of their other technology. It's the same with NetApp."
Noland said Dell buying Data Domain would never happen. "There's just no way," he said. "It would be a direct attack on EMC."
Other possible storage acquisition targets of Dell, solution providers said, include San Diego-based disk and tape appliance vendor Overland Storage; Campbell, Calif.-based IP storage vendor ONStor; and Eden Prairie, Minn.-based SAN virtualization vendor Compellent.
Noland said there is also no reason Dell would limit itself to storage. Some of the potential Dell acquisitions on his list include handheld device maker Palm, Sunnyvale, Calif.; services providers Computer Sciences, of Falls Church, Va.; and New York-based Accenture.
Among networking vendors, Nolan said Dell could consider Seattle-based F5 Networks; Marlborough, Mass.-based 3Com; Force10 Networks, of San Jose, Calif.; or a smaller PC vendor to gobble market share.
Bob Venero, CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider and Dell partner, said he would like to see Dell acquire a Unix provider, such as the hardware business of Sun, which itself is in the process of being acquired by Oracle.
"Unix is still a very strong player in the data center," Venero said. "If you took a survey of how many data centers have a Unix platform, I guarantee you it'd be 80 percent. If you want to run in the data center, you need to control as much of it as possible."
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