Dell snaps up Enstratius to build cloud momentum

You have to give Michael Dell credit: his company’s still moving and shaking despite what have to be considerable distractions as he and his private equity pals take the whole shebang private. On Monday morning, Dell said it is buying Enstratius, a startup that provides tools and dashboards to manage hybrid and private clouds.

Terms were not disclosed but here’s how Dell described its new acquisition:

“Enstratius is available as software-as-a-service or as on-premise software that enables full control from within a customer’s data center, or via a hosted service … and complements the capability Dell recently acquired from Gale Technologies, now Active System Manager (ASM), by providing enhanced multi-cloud management and application configuration capabilities and integrates converged offerings with cloud systems management.”

cloud stackFor the past few years, Dell has plotted a tricky course as it tried to morph from a PC and server vendor to a provider of software, cloud and managed services. Toward that end it has bought companies ranging from Wyse and Boomi to bolster its cloud credibility and Quest Software for its data center management and automation tools. Like its rivals in traditional IT — companies including HP(s hpq) and IBM(s ibm), Dell faces growing competition for enterprise and webscale workloads from Amazon Web Services. 

Update: As Dell rolled out its going-private game plan, GigaOM’s Derrick Harris counseled it to get serious about buying up real cloud expertise, which it apparently has.

Here’s how GigaOM described Enstratus (the company added the “i” a few months ago) in reporting the company’s $3.5 million Series A funding in 2011:

“EnStratus is similar to the more widely known RightScale service, although enStratus actually supports more clouds. It currently claims support for Amazon Web Services, AT&T Synaptic Storage, Bluelock, Cloud Central,, CloudSigma, EMC Atmos (e emc), Eucalyptus, Google Storage, GoGrid, Nimbula, OpenStack, Rackspace, Terremark, VMware vSphere, VMware vCloud Express and Windows Azure.”

Not surprisingly, George Reese, CTO of Minneapolis-based Enstratius, said Dell and his company align well. Enstratius runs a tight ship and has managed to stake a claim in enterprise cloud management with “just Series A financing,” Reese said via email.

Reese added that Dell:

“Sees cloud management as a key value point in the cloud computing stack. By acquiring us, they acquire established leadership in cloud management aimed at enterprise needs. Customers don’t want a single solution on a single stack, they want a solution that enables them to interact with many different cloud platforms, public and private. The Enstratius acquisition immediately gives Dell leadership in this area over other large technology vendors.”

Dell ownership gives Enstratius more resources to attack that market faster, he added.

At least one Wall Street analyst agreed (Dell is still trading until its restructuring is complete): Wells Fargo’s Maynard Um characterized the Enstratius buy as a good use of cash. In a research note, Um wrote:

“We believe the acquisition signals 1) management remains focused strategically on transforming the company and 2) from an industry perspective, the importance of being agnostic (though we expect tight integration with Dell’s owned-portfolio).”

This news comes just an hour or so after Quest competitor BMC announced plans to take itself private. Which just goes to show, if you don’t like the current IT landscape now, just wait a minute.

This story was updated at 8:47 a.m. PDT with more context about Dell’s cloud strategy  and Wells Fargo comments.