"Given Dells success in selling Windows servers and associated Clariion storage, EMC wants to provide more software that can be bundled through the SMB channel," Babineau said. "This acquisition is in line with Dantz, Prisa and Astrum, as it focuses on data management and protection for the entry-level networked storage market." Some competitors, however, have a different view. "With little expertise in the SMB market, EMC is having to acquire external niche players in the space to augment their enterprise-designed hardware, so its not surprising theyre downplaying this gap in their portfolio," said Vince Gayman, director of SMB programs at Hewlett-Packard Co.Nevertheless, the market should brace for more acquisitions from EMC, experts said."EMC has a formidable mergers and acquisitions team that always understands the executive strategy and can map those requirements to the current market landscape, and there is no shortage of deal flow in Hopkinton, Mass.," Babineau said. Fisch agreed but said he expects EMC to focus for a while on digesting its large acquisitions. If there are further acquisitions in 2004, he expects them to be smaller, tactical plays such as Allocity. From the storage industry perspective, however, EMCs acquisitions represent the larger market trend toward consolidation. "The big fish are getting bigger," Fisch said. EMCs recent buying spree, which has focused heavily on penetrating the SMB market, also is indicative of the storage market as a whole. "The SMB, more specifically the S, has been a market untapped by many storage companies, and EMC expanded its product portfolio to specifically offer those customers backup and data management solutions through the most well established SMB channelDell," Babineau said. EMCs recent deals, he said, are an attempt to provide more value with good enough functionality at the right price point for smaller IT shops. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on enterprise and small business storage hardware and software.