Channel interest in which storage vendors Dell might acquire is growing as solution providers watch vendors such as Broadcom, EMC, NetApp and Oracle scramble to acquire companies and technologies to help them build more complete offerings.
Solution providers are betting that Dell will expand beyond its hardware roots with the acquisition of a storage-focused software vendor, with CommVault commonly cited as a prime target.
Other storage software vendors such as Acronis, BakBone and DataCore, and even Sun Microsystems' hardware line, also are cited as possible fits as Dell looks for ways to restart the growth it historically enjoyed. Dell declined to discuss potential storage acquisitions.
Interest in whether Dell will expand via one or more acquisitions comes at a time when the IT industry is going through a consolidation phase, especially in the storage market.
EMC and NetApp are locked in a war of words and dollars in their pursuit of data deduplication leader Data Domain. NetApp currently has a combination cash and stock offer of $1.9 billion on the table for Data Domain, while EMC is offering $1.8 billion in an all-cash deal.
Storage networking vendor Emulex is fighting a hostile takeover bid from Broadcom, which wants to combine the two companies' technologies to be prepared for an expected convergence of IP networking and storage.
Oracle is expected to close its acquisition of Sun this summer, giving it a complete line of storage and server hardware and software.
The fact that Dell was sitting on $10.1 billion in cash at the end of the first quarter and is talking about acquisitions also is fueling interest, said Jayson Noland, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co.
"Dell is strategically out of step with many of its competitors," Noland said. "But it has a lot of cash and a publically stated desire to acquire."
Solution providers said it's only a matter of time before Dell makes its move.
Dell already is a strong player in the storage market thanks to its acquisition last year of EqualLogic, its long-term relationship with EMC and its own line of storage appliances.
However, solution providers who work with Dell say that the vendor needs to become a software company in order to grow and take advantage of its hardware offerings, and that most likely means it will eventually acquire a storage backup software vendor.
Most of that talk is centered on a possible acquisition of CommVault, which, along with Symantec, is one of Dell's biggest storage software partners.
Next: The Odds-on Favorite: CommVault