Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) is buying privately held software specialist Ibrix for an undisclosed fee, as the tech giant bolsters its storage strategy.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm is touting Ibrix's file-serving software as a way for users to get their arms around vast quantities of data, something that's a major headache for chief information officers. Ibrix's Fusion software, for example, lets users quickly add capacity by building clusters of storage, and is already used by big names such as Disney ( DIS), DreamWorks ( DWA) and JP Morgan Chase. "Customers need highly scalable storage solutions that efficiently and cost-effectively manage massive amounts of information," said Jeff Hausman, vice president unified storage at H-P's StorageWorks division, in a statement.

H-P, which competes with EMC ( EMC), NetApp ( NTAP), and IBM ( IBM), clearly has its eye on the cloud storage market, which will require extremely large-capacity systems that can be quickly scaled up and down.

Storage, although hardly the sexiest technology, has been grabbing its share of the headlines recently. Last week, for example, EMC finally won a tug of love with NetApp to acquire Data Domain ( DDUP), and the technology is expected to be one of the first areas to rebound as the tech sector emerges from the recession.

H-P's storage revenue declined 22% year-over-year in its recent second quarter results, so it makes sense for the firm to beef up this part of its product portfolio, which offers higher gross margins than its server business.

With one-time partner Cisco ( CSCO) now challenging H-P's server business with its Unified Computing System, the tech giant has been circling its wagons and seeking out opportunities to launch its own attack. Earlier this year, for example, H-P launched its BladeSystem Matrix, essentially a rack packed full of storage, server and networking gear.

Shares of H-P, which was one of TheStreet.com's top tech picks for 2009, rose 31 cents, or 0.78%, to $39.98 as the Nasdaq slipped 0.01%.

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