Originally Posted by Huntsman
Well, I think the real threat of litigation that drives document retention policies and such is pushing more and more data to to network-hosted solutions, of course in concert with backup policies -- so that everything that should be kept is backed-up, and everything that is "expired" is really and truly gone. In a way, some companies are already turning their 'workstations' more into terminals than standalone computers -- just using processing power locally, but storage remotely.
That's what I see for the near-term future -- 90% of storage will be remote, on servers, and local machines will be more liker terminals of old; their local processing power will be limited to enough to do word-processing and such, like those All-In-One integrated machines, but people who need to crunch real numbers, say on the CAD/CAE end, will have additonal access to local clusters as well as really great graphics abilities on their local 'terminal stations.'
Moore's law is obsolteing workstations that can't keep up, so 1Gbit and higher Intranets can captialize on modular clusters that are easily-upgradeable to give high-end users access to the best processing power, while low-end users have terminal stations that have enough power for everyday tasks -- but all non-scratch data will be network-hosted.
Most companies where you have your own login information do this. With the extreme stability of NFS and Windows Roaming Profile, it makes it very easy for you to start work on Computer A, log off to go take lunch, and then resume your work on Computer B. It makes administering the computers easier, as well. Instead of having to run rsync (or some Windows equivalent) on 5,000 machines in the building, you can copy only one. There are two huge downsides to this kind of implementation, though. If a person downloads some sort of virus and/or malware, the more Windows-based computers he/she logs into the more you have to reformat to clean. And, in the case of a network outage in the building, you're kinda effed.
The smart thing is to find a mix, though. You don't want to have to SSH or Remote Desktop into a server to do things that are easily done on your local machine. You mentioned CAD/CAE -- this is a perfect example. In most cases, the ability of a powerful desktop is more than sufficient to run CAD software. However, if you get into extremely heavy computer graphics (Pixar, for example) desktops just can't keep up with it. In the latter cases, it's usually more advisable to remote into some sort of cluster.