Sexy thin client hardware
Forget a linux or other cpu+kernel+software based solution, a company called Teradici have an amazing chipset that encapsulates hardware compression/decompression of screen changes, encryption, usb etc.
The problem seems to be that you need a 1:1 chip in your host for each client. That's going to have trouble scaling.
Thin client for your virtual cloud desktop
I remembered a cheap thin-client company I saw at CeBIT Sydney this year: ThinLinX - an Australian company that makes cheap thin client devices that run the linux kernel (and thus nearly any remote desktop protocol you can imagine). They have full sound support so it's not impossible to imagine running your voice through the same device.
Your desktop in the cloud
Desktop cloud computing, Virtual desktop infrastructure... whatever you call it, it's a fairly obvious extension of data center based virtual desktops -- just using the cloud instead of your data center.
For the un-initiated, many organisations use a central server (or servers) on which all their staff work. On your desk you might have a very simple PC or something like a Sun Ray device, but all the work and files are housed in the data center. So if anything goes awry with your local hardware, or you have to move (due to a disaster or whatever), you can access your "PC" from anywhere. It also works out cheaper to provide and support.
So imagine that, but instead of your own server, you use the cloud - say Amazon Elastic Cloud Computing.Well tonight I did just that. Here is a screen shot of me using a Linux desktop installation on Amazon EC2 - and I'm doing all the things many people do at work: using a calendaring tool (in this case the much ballyhooed Chandler), working on a spreadsheet (using Open Office) and web browsing (Firefox).
To access the desktop I am using VNC which means I could access it from my Mac, a Windows or DOS PC (yes, DOS :), just about anything. I'm in Sydney, and the Amazon servers are in the US, so the latency meant things were a little jerky, but just about useable. So with some tweaking and a slightly more advanced screen remoting technology and it could just about work. In the US I'm sure it is fine as it is.
So there you have it - in one night I provisioned a server that could run the desktops for a small office, and thanks to EC2 you just pay for what you use. Note that for this solution to work you really need the Amazon Elastic Block persistent disk technology, which should be available real soon.
Imagine - you start a new office in China, and all you need is an Internet connection, a firewall, a bunch of commodity hardware devices and a printer or two. As soon as you can get them there, you have the server ready to go. Or instead you need to relocate all your staff in a hurry and don't have a dedicated BCP location - internet and a few cheap PCs and your exact office environment is replicated. It's a good way to go for many offices, especially back and middle office etc.
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