The future is integrated. Cell phones already come with digital cameras and MP3 player functionality. Your next Nokia (NYSE:NOK) might cook dinner for you, and then do the dishes. Wal-Mart's much-copied superstore concept puts car tires next to the milk and cookies, two aisles down from the tax preparation station.

Enterprise software is no different. All-in-one solutions are easy to use and understand, which leads to quicker work and lower staffing levels to support the darn thing. That's why virtual computing giant VMware (NYSE:VMW) is happy to spend $362 million in cash and stock on privately held software development specialist SpringSource.

The acquisition puts VMware way ahead of the competition once again. SpringSource's market-leading tools for writing programs in the Java language plus VMware's dominant virtualization platforms combine to create a whole new market that rivals like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Citrix Systems (NASDAQ:CTXS) haven't yet touched on.

VMware CEO Paul Maritz noted that the "Platform as a Service" (PaaS) market is expected to become a $15 billion annual sales opportunity "over the next several years," and that's exactly the sort of product SpringSource enables. "This is a big step for VMware to become a true data center and cloud automation company," Maritz said. "We believe this will allow us to be a very strong player in this emerging [PaaS] market."

By baking SpringSource's tools into the virtual machine software, VMware makes it easy to do a number of things, including:

  • Create software that takes advantage of the virtual platform in new ways.
  • Allow the virtual machine to run programs faster and better.
  • Give 2 million Java developers a whole new rapid-fire development and testing platform.
  • Allow automatic installation and configuration of new software -- and new virtual machines.

Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) might be on its way in this direction, if recent acquisitions are any indication. Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA) created the Java language in the first place, and its engineers should be able to find ways of juicing up the Virtual Iron platform. But big daddy Oracle has little experience managing either software development tools or virtual machine software in the first place, giving VMware a head start.

Remember VMware the next time you see a Swiss Army Knife with a built-in flashlight and flamethrower. The integrated future has arrived.

Further Foolishness:

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.