There's a bidding war blazing over enterprise and virtual-environment storage specialist 3PAR (NYSE: PAR). Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) has stepped in to trump last week's offer sheet from Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) with a 33% higher bid. HP's offer raises the stock to $28 per share and the enterprise value to a cool $1.6 billion.

3PAR shareholders couldn't be happier -- especially if all the newfound attention results in another round or two of higher bids. Most other common bid improvements are not available, since we're already looking at all-cash contracts, and at least Dell's advances are fully approved by 3PAR's own board.

I fully expect Dell to come back to the table with another offering. The company has been working its way into enterprise storage with a methodical acquisition strategy, and it would dearly love to add another piece to the puzzle. HP, on the other hand, already looms large in the very market where 3PAR makes a living; its bid looks more like an attempt to stop Dell from gaining an advantage than to build something great of HP's own.

Still, both Dell and HP are paying a lot here for an unprofitable company with less than $200 million in 2009 revenues. I don't see either EMC (NYSE: EMC) or Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) stepping into this battle, because EMC is already a profitable giant in the virtualized storage field, and Oracle's Sun Microsystems subsidiary was never a big enough storage vendor to place this high a value on such a niche play. NetApp (Nasdaq: NTAP) might love to own 3PAR, but it can ill afford to put undue stress on its relatively tight balance sheet with an all-cash deal this big.

That leaves the ball firmly in Dell's court. I don't expect a long, dramatic battle here, but there should be one or two shots left to exchange.

Who'll walk away with the prize? Discuss 3PAR's future home in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Fool owns shares of Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.