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I am creating a Minecraft server. It says I have to have Vault, but it doesn't tell me what it is. What is Vault, and what does it do?

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The official page for the Vault bukkit plugin says:

Vault is a Permissions, Chat, & Economy API

Vault is a plugin which allows different plugins to interact with many different economy, chat and permissions plugins through a single API. This means that a shop plugin, for example, only needs to use one piece of code to interact with the many different economy plugins where usually it would require many different pieces of code to support each plugin.

If you don't have a plugin which requires Vault, you probably don't need it.

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Think of Vault like a middle-man plugin. Vault lets other plugins communicate with each other trough Vault. That way, a plugin doesn't need to have specific methods tailored for each and every other plugin to be able to cooperate with them or exchange data.

One example:

Kitsunechat, which is a chat manager, becomes able to provide the chat function with PermissionsEX's prefixes, ranknames, colors and more; if Vault is installed.

I don't think Vault does ANYTHING at all by itself, it's just an API.

In computer programming, an application programming interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. An API expresses a software component in terms of its operations, inputs, outputs, and underlying types. An API defines functionalities that are independent of their respective implementations, which allows definitions and implementations to vary without compromising each other. - Wikipedia

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