Sometimes an acquisition is more than just an acquisition. It's a signal that a major trend is underway. This appears to be the case with EMC's (NYSE:EMC) recent purchase of Documentum (NASDAQ:DCTM).

The price tag -- $1.7 billion -- is a clear sign of serious interest in the content management space. Let's face it, corporate America is inundated with data. With new federal legislation, like Sarbanes-Oxley and the HIPAA privacy regulations for healthcare, companies must manage data in a structured way (just ask Frank Quattrone about the importance of storing and managing data).

But this is only part of the story. Hardware companies are rethinking their strategies and as a result, looking at software. IBM (NYSE:IBM), the first to do this, is a powerhouse in hardware and software for storage. Now, with its acquisition of Documentum and Legato, EMC has a similar platform.

Put plainly, consolidation in content management is inevitable. Hardware companies such as Network Appliance (NASDAQ:NTAP), and Brocade (NASDAQ:BRCD) do not want to be left without a software strategy. And don't overlook Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:SUNW), which is desperately in need of a new strategy for growth.

The targets? Prospects will share the attributes of Documentum -- solid technology and market share. And only a handful make that cut: FileNet (NASDAQ:FILE), Interwoven (NASDAQ:IWOV), Open Text (NASDAQ:OTEX), and Vignette (NASDAQ:VIGN).

Let the deals begin.

You can reach Tom Tauli at tom@taulli.com.