As Dell proved when it decided to drop $1.4 billion on EqualLogic earlier this month, large storage acquisitions have not gone away just because startups have found a lucrative IPO path and EMC is taking an M&A breather to integrate its new toys.
Hewlett-Packard, a company a lot of people thought was getting ready to exit the storage business a few years back, is now the most likely to add to its storage portfolio through acquisition. Over the past few years HP has picked up AppIQ, OuterBay, PolyServe and Opsware, and more is expected.
There has been persistent talk about possible HP deals of varying sizes: small (email archiving startup Mimosa Systems), medium (IPO-eyeing iSCSI vendor LeftHand Networks) and blockbuster (struggling security-storage giant Symantec). While some of these rumors have swirled for months and are growing stale, don’t be surprised to see HP pull the trigger on at least one deal between now and its Dec. 11 Analyst Day. And storage is high on HP’s list of priorities these days.
“Storage is a place that we have interest in growing our position,” HP CEO Mark Hurd said during the company’s Monday evening earnings conference call.
When asked specifically about storage acquisitions, Hurd refused to give details, “other than to say we continue to have a filter of something that makes strategic sense, it makes financial sense, and we can actually run and operate it.”
Hurd went on to talk about the importance of data storage in today’s corporate world, calling it a key attribute in the process of creating, moving, processing, visualizing, and printing content.
Hurd’s comments came after HP reported positive signs of storage growth after several disappointing quarters. Most of that growth came in the midrange and low-end. HP’s 7% increase in storage and 17% growth in its midrange EVA systems were on par with numbers recently reported by EMC and Network Appliance and well ahead of IBM’s storage performance last quarter. Hurd said he was also happy with the performance of low-end MSA systems.
The biggest storage disappointment for HP was that tape revenue declined, as did the high-end storage systems business that HP sells through an OEM deal with Hitachi Data Systems.
“There is still much room for improvement,” Hurd said of storage. “We still have a tape business that is not growing the way we would like and the high end is still behaving more like the mainframe market, as opposed to the mid-range market and the lower end of the storage market.”
Now we’ll see what HP does to, as Hurd put it, “grow its position.”