The M&A train gathers steam in the security space. With Lumigent’s assets off the table, the TripWire buy, Sophos/Astaro, and RSA/NetWitness, it seems the busiest guys in town are the investment bankers. VMware has joined the parade by buying configuration management player Shavlik, ostensibly to facilitate the adoption of virtualization in the SMB market segment, though we believe that oversimplifies VMware’s ambition to be a one-stop shop for all things virtual infrastructure.

This is actually an interesting deal, particularly considering GigaOm’s excellent VMware is the New Microsoft, Just Without an OS. Think about that for a second. As Microsoft started attacking the enterprise with LAN Manager and then more specifically Windows 2K, their success was accelerated by offering seamless management of the server(s). Enterprise customers scoffed at Microsoft System Manager because it wasn’t OpenView or UniCenter, but it provided small customers with what they needed to lay down a foundation of Microsoft servers. In the small business segment, seamless management is critical thanks to the limited IT resources. And that will be a gating factor to adoption of virtualization in small companies as well. So decisively taking that issue off the table is a smart move for VMware. The ability to claim some security goodness is a bonus.

You have to tip your hat to Mark and the rest of the team at Shavlik. They built the company without outside investment by focusing on a core market and not straying from it, even as Shavlik’s more enterprise-focused competitors, such as BigFix (IBM) and ConfigureSoft (EMC), were taken out by big IT players. Shavlik stayed focused on Windows environments, adding anti-virus and power management to the mix within the same management construct. They also invested heavily in spinning a SaaS management service to appeal to small companies (under 100 employees). If you look at Shavlik from an enterprise standpoint, as many of us are guilty of, they don’t measure up. But as VMware looks to go downmarket with virtualization Shavlik is a great fit.

But we still need to assess the technology within the context of the entire virtual infrastructure. On one side they might be planning on adding it to VShield Endpoint to enhance VM configuration and tracking – little things like making sure the instance you spin up was patched while in storage, and updates weren’t just applied to VMs running at the time. Or maybe they will skew this more towards managing virtual desktops. Or both. To assume they will only use Shavlik as a lever to get into SMB would be to downplay VMware’s grand ambition. With some R&D investment Shavlik’s technology could be extended to other platforms. And probably needs to be, because a technology like configuration management is core to managing this next wave of hybrid virtual/cloud data centers. VMware has plenty of options for integrating Shavlik, and most inevitably lead to impinging on the territory of its partners.

Initially they won’t risk alienating HP, IBM, or EMC, who are significant partners for VMware. But at the end of the day all the Big IT players are competing to control the virtualization/cloud platform and infrastructure. VMware is clearly building itself out as a one-stop virtual infrastructure shop. It’s too early to see how it will fully play out, and a lot of organizations are using multiple virtualization and cloud providers to tackle different parts of the problem (servers, desktops, big iron, etc.). But ultimately, in most market segments, the player that provides the most effective platform will gain the largest market share. And that means they all need to field complete product lines. Which they will, keeping the investment bankers busy.