Computer builder Hewlett-Packard, located in Palo Alto, was started by William Hewlett and David Packard, both Stanford graduates.
HP and Dell have been looking to expand beyond personal computers over the past few years in a search for bigger profits.
In 3Par they are bidding for a company that provides software for organizing data on corporate servers. The company, which is based in Fremont, Calif., offers its products on a subscription basis over the Web, an approach known as "cloud computing."
HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., said Monday it will pay $24 per share for the company, a 33 percent premium over Dell's bid of $18 per share.
Shares of 3Par rose $6.66, or 37 percent, to $24.70 in premarket trading.
HP is the world's biggest computer maker, with Dell trailing at No. 2. And it has gone further than Dell in stretching beyond the PC market. PC sales made up less than a third of HP's annual revenue of $116 billion during the most recent fiscal year, while they account for more than half of revenue at Dell.
With the acquisition of 3Par, HP would add to a data storage business that makes up about 13 percent of its revenue.
The software 3Par offers is designed to maximize available space on data storage hardware -- a cost-cutting step -- by using a technique called "thin provisioning," by which extra capacity cane be added as needed.