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EMC chief executive Joe Tucci (right) with Dell founder Michael Dell. Dell, along with HP, looking at the cloud storage specialist as an acquisition target. Reuters

EMC, which hosts massive data stores for the Fortune 500 and key federal agencies, is in play. Reports indicate Hewlett-Packard is the most aggressive suitor, with Dell a close second.

EMC shares were up 1.32 percent, to $29.92, in midmorning trading Monday.

EMC launched in 1979 as a data storage specialist. Its VMware unit develops software that backs an IT architecture, known as virtualization, that lets cloud providers host multiple customers on a single server. Virtualization can significantly reduce hardware costs and real estate requirements.

HP is currently in talks with EMC over a possible buyout, the Wall Street Journal reported. The move would allow HP, based in Palo Alto, California, to broaden its offerings for business customers.

Also in the mix is Dell, which is looking to expand its presence in the enterprise technology market. Dell most recently bought out tech services company Perot Systems, founded by political gadfly H. Ross Perot, in 2009 for $3.9 billion.

The bids for EMC come at a critical time for the company. CEO Joe Tucci, who has occupied the corner office of the Hopkinton, Massachusetts, company since 2001, has announced that he will step down next year. The company’s storage business is also threatened by new, born-on-the-Web cloud providers like Dropbox and Box.

An acquisition of EMC would make either HP or Dell a more formidable rival to business technology giants like IBM and Oracle. Indeed, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has identified data handling and analytics as a key growth market for Big Blue. Oracle, which pioneered the database market, is facing its own challenges as iconic founder and CEO Larry Ellison last week said he would step down.

EMC would also give any potential acquirer some key security technology. The company’s RSA unit provides data protection systems to a range of customers, from Wall Street banks to federal agencies.

Representatives for EMC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.