I work at a university and a part of my job entails usage of software for numerical simulation of fluid flow. My department decided to buy a new high- end workstation that should primarily serve as 'my' desktop, but some of my colleagues will connect to it in order to perform their calculations. The problem is that it is not clear to me how to configure the computer to satisfy the various needs that me and my colleagues have.
Ideally, I would like to install Linux as primary OS, because my plan is to do some programming and simulation with open-source software that is Linux-only. In addition to that, I will probably also run Ansys, which might limit the choice of distribution since Ansys supports primarily RedHat and enterprise version of SUSE Linux. I will also occasionally need commercial software for medical image segmentation which runs only on Windows. The main complication is that my colleagues' computers are all Windows based and most of them have very limited experience with Linux, so it would be much easier for them if this new machine was running Windows.
One obvious solution would be plain dual-boot Linux/Windows, but that will limit the time we have for running simulations under Linux for example - when someone needs urgently to use a Windows app, we'll all have to stop the computations. Note that it might not be always possible for everyone to have a local copy of said software in their own machine, since the number of licenses available is sometimes limited.
The next thing that comes to my mind is Virtualbox or VMware - I could install a Windows guest in Linux and then put all Windows apps there. My question is - how would my colleagues access this from their own machines (i.e. is there some easy and efficient analog of 'ssh -X' that would enable someone using a Windows desktop to connect to a Windows guest inside Linux host)? Is this too much indirection that will incur a serious performance hit? I was also wondering if (in case of dual boot setup) I can be logged in Linux and run a Windows application that is installed on Windows partition - sort of like with Wine, but the app is actually installed in Windows. Is this possible with Virtualbox or some other software?
Some problems could be avoided by asking each person that uses for example Ansys to set up their simulation and input data in their machine and then just copy everything to the new computer and launch the simulation there from command line. Unfortunately, there is still this problem of software that runs exclusively under Windows.
How would you handle this situation? What setup or software do you recommend? Dual boot? Virtualization? Something completely different?