After a feast of mega-acquisitions, a company typically suffers indigestion. By all indications, EMC (NYSE:EMC) has been spared that fate -- at least judging by yesterday's earnings announcement.

What is even more remarkable is the degree to which the acquisitions have been transformative in propelling EMC, a hardware storage company, aggressively into software.

Clearly, IT customers want lifecycle management, not to rely on myriad vendors. The big players are scrambling to fill this need for integration. That means IBM (NYSE:IBM), Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:SUNW), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and increasingly, EMC.

Management calls it the "holy grail strategy," and EMC's quest has involved a series of strategic acquisitions -- Legato, Documentum, and Vmware, among them. (See EMC's Holy Grail for more on this.)

For all its success so far, EMC's strategy was a gamble, and there was a lot of initial skepticism. The payoff in the words of Bill Teuber, EMC's executive vice president and CFO: "For the year, we reached and exceeded every major financial goal we set at the start of 2003."

Living well is the best revenge, and so far, so good. Sure, a general uptick in IT spending has helped, but EMC has had a mighty big hand in its own comeback.

Tom Taulli is the author of six books on investing, including The Complete M&A Handbook (Random House). You can reach him