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The security consolidation continues with VMware paying $1.54 billion to buy mobile security company AirWatch.

Atlanta-based AirWatch, led by co-founder and Chief Executive John Marshall, came to life in 2003 and is an enterprise mobile management and security solution provider.

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The acquisition is the largest made by VMware, topping the $1.26 billion purchase of Nicira in 2012.

This move puts VMware into competition with established mobile technology management rivals Microsoft, Blackberry and Intel, as well as venture-backed Silicon Valley challengers including MobileIron and Good Technology.

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Palo Alto-based VMware said it will pay $1.175 billion in cash and about $365 million in installment payments and assumed unvested equity.

“With this acquisition VMware will add a foundational element to our end-user computing portfolio that will enable our customers to turbo-charge their mobile workforce without compromising security,” said VMware Chief Executive, Pat Gelsinger.

“When we started AirWatch, we set out to help businesses succeed in the mobile explosion that was set to come. Now there are more than 2 billion smart phones and tablets in the world and more than half of those devices touch an enterprise,” said Alan Dabbiere, co-founder and chairman, AirWatch. “By joining a proven innovator like VMware, we now have an opportunity to bring our leading-edge solutions to an even broader set of customers and partners to help them optimize for the mobile-cloud world.”

The deal won approval by both boards and should close by the end of the first quarter.

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