A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you're talking a significant sum of money: that famous cashpile seems to be burning a hole in the pockets of Cisco as it takes out another $2.9bn to buy mobile networking firm Starent. The deal follows a similar-sized acquisition of Tandberg just a couple of weeks ago and adds to a pattern of conspicuous consumption that could yet lead to the much-rumoured combination of king of the networks with the king of storage, EMC.

Of course, EMC would cost a lot more than Starent and Tandberg combined but the more I think of it, the more a merger between this pair makes sense. EMC made its fortune in what it called "information lifecycle management", that is, taking care of data from creation to deletion or destruction, a sort of cradle-to-grave welfare state for all your digital assets. The obvious development of that strategy is to take care of ones and zeroes as they travel down the wire -- which is where Cisco could come in.

Also, EMC has a joker in the pack with its ownership of VMware. Cisco is moving into servers and needs a place to store all that data generated -- why not buy the ideal home? As for customers, having a one-stop shop for the network, data abstraction and its ultimate terminus makes sense, especially as it doesn't involve the embrace of an enterprise hardware/software/services all-rounder like IBM or HP. 

EMC is a huge company in its own right but the scale of the competition continues to grow. A Cisco-EMC deal would make perfect sense.