Dell just picked up Enstratius for an undisclosed amount today, making the cloud management vendor the latest well-known cloud controller to get snapped up by a big infrastructure or OS vendor. Dell will add Enstratius cloud management capabilities to its existing management suite for converged and cloudy infrastructure, which includes element manager and configuration automator Active System Manager (ASM, the re-named assets acquired with Gale Technologies in November), Quest Foglight performance monitoring, and (maybe) what’s still around from Scalent and DynamicOps.

This is a good move for Dell, but it doesn’t exactly clarify where all these management capabilities will fall out. The current ASM product seems to be a combo of code from the original Scalent acquisition upgraded with the GaleForce product; regardless of what’s in it, though, what it does is discover, configure and deploy physical and virtual converged infrastructure components. A private cloud automation platform, basically. Like all private cloud management stacks, it does rapid template-based provisioning and workflow orchestration. But it doesn’t provision apps or provision to public or open-source cloud stacks. That’s where Enstratius comes in.

Enstratius starts at the app layer and works down. It’s designed to sit atop your public and private cloud stacks of choice and automate the full cloud app lifecycle. It offers a clean self-service (multi-cloud) catalog and template design tools to create and deploy multi-tiered apps. It’s aimed at cloud developers first, helping them design and deploy cloud apps quickly with auto-provisioning, auto-scaling, and automated backups. Enstratius has always touted its independence from any one cloud or infrastructure stack, and its strong focus on access and governance controls. This is why Dell wants them, in my view: the cloud is about apps first, infrastructure second. Dell’s management stack looks a lot like VMware’s now: VMware has an Orchestrator and an Automation Center (from the DynamicOps buy) and the vFabric Application Director: the first automates infrastructure provisioning workflows, the second extends them and orchestrates activities across multiple clouds, and the third automates app deployment to those clouds.

Both companies have some integration and feature rationalization to work out (to put it mildly), but the motivation is the same. He who manages the apps manages the cloud. Orchestration was also why Red Hat grabbed ManageIQ last December. As companies move more and more critical production application workloads to both public and private clouds, they need more than infrastructure managers. In the public cloud, you don’t manage your own infrastructure anyway – what you really need are tools to manage the apps you build and deploy to multiple clouds. VMware, Dell, and Red Hat decided it was worth a little feature overlap with their existing products to get hold of a management stack that immediately gave them connectivity to multiple cloud platforms – and gave them a way to reach the developers who are the prime drivers of cloud in the enterprise.

The cloud management land grab is on. It took a few years longer for all the early independent virtualization management vendors to get swallowed up. Who will be left by the end of the year?