With its acquisition of storage company Compellent Technologies now done, Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) is starting to talk storage vision. Uh-oh. Is that executive-speak for "we're behind and here's our catch-up plan"?

Storage is one of the more attractive sectors in the computer business, with above-average margins and revenue growth. Yet over the past two fiscal years, Dell's storage revenue declined -- yes, declined -- an unfathomable 14%. Meanwhile, revenue at storage providers EMC (NYSE: EMC) and NetApp (Nasdaq: NTAP) increased 14% and 82%, respectively, over roughly the same time frame.

It's no wonder Dell paid $960 million for Compellent not too long after losing a bidding war with Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) in a $2.35 billion deal to acquire 3PAR. Many say both companies overpaid.

Storage technology is complicated, particularly the high-priced, high-end systems made by Compellent, 3PAR, EMC, and IBM (NYSE: IBM). HP has long obtained its high-end storage line fromHitachi (NYSE: HIT). Enterprise storage takes a level of technical skill that a company doesn't develop by assembling industry-standard parts. Dell has innovated around supply-chain management and direct selling. It is a fantastic marketer. But it lacks an engineering culture.

Trying to fold a cutting-edge technology company like Compellent into Dell's marketing culture is a recipe for culture clash … and a failed acquisition. I don't see any reason Dell's Compellent acquisition will fare any better than its $1.4 billion acquisition of enterprise-storage provider EqualLogic in 2007. At the time, Dell said it would use the EqualLogic purchase to increase its market share in the rapidly growing Internet storage market.

Can we learn from the EqualLogic deal's success (or failure)? Dell's storage revenue for fiscal 2008, which ended just a few months after the EqualLogic deal closed, was $2.44 billion. Its storage revenue for fiscal 2011, which ended a couple of months ago, was $2.30 billion -- down about 6% since acquiring EqualLogic.  So much for market-share gains in a growing market.

Dell's $3.9 billion acquisition of services provider Perot Systems in November 2009 is another example of using acquisitions to grow revenue -- or not. In Dell's most recent quarter, services revenue grew a measly 1% year over year.

Foolish takeaway
Integrating acquired companies is a skill, and a rare one at that. I see no reason that Dell's Compellent acquisition will fare any better than the EqualLogic or Perot System acquisitions … or that Dell can restore EPS growth by buying other companies.

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Fool contributor Cindy Johnson currently owns no shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool owns shares of EMC and IBM. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.