Not so long ago the only choice was pretty much to manage all software under one roof. Most AEC companies kept servers and key applications running in the home office. The field was connected through VPN, Terminal Services with or without Citrix products and perhaps a large job had a server and LAN connected to this. Otherwise, pretty much laptops, email, FTP and faxes got the job done. Fast forward to the Cloud era, and we now have a lot of new options largely due to virtualization & web services enabled offerings. Now more than ever we can (and should) put parts of solutions where we want them and leverage them anywhere, anytime, and on any device as we need them.I like to use an Air Hockey table as an example. This represents the premise of Cloud, and I like the real world image because I'm talking theory, not technologies or products. Essentially, Pre Cloud, we had a table with no air on, now we have enough air under our pucks to slide them around and if a good wind comes even flip them on to other tables if we want. The pucks are "machines" and the air is "resource pooling" swirling in the "aaS" blender. The problem is there are no strings attached to the pucks and we are not yet clear on how to keep one from flying off and hitting our friend in the mouth.
So how do we manage all these disparate vendors and pieces? The problem existed Pre-cloud, but we could buy all our products, drop them all on an "airless hockey table", maybe even glue them down, and at least know where the parts were, who they came from, and succeed or fail with internal IT staff. But now the air is on, and the wind is blowing.
There is an interesting set of emerging products that are effectively enabling the user to be free of form factor choices, leaving this delivery matrix to some heavy lifting backend technology. Differentiating themselves from intranet portals, app stores, etc, these are core technologies which apply the definition of the Cloud to the technical (and in some cases business) aggregation of cloud services. To some extent, the social network of technologies. Think of accessing all your technologies under the cloud Characteristic of Broad Access, while the back end is managing "containers" of machines, apps, data, and so on, in a federated, secure way.
Enough theory, how about some products? There is a wide range of the betas and V1's, to name a few, Microsoft's Sharepoint has some capabilities, VMWare now has an offering, Citrix has one, Apple' pending iCloud will fill the consumer void, and my own company has a dialed in AEC focused take as well.
BTW, I missed a couple weeks here, in large part due to some reliance on non-cloud technologies for my amazing graphic designs and Wordpress. I wrote plenty, which is forthcoming, but I took a bit of time to take the process to the cloud, and surprisingly was able to find most things I needed. If interested, this is now being done on various devices and apps, connected via cloud, with online and offline capabilities.