Haha! I think I found (or more accurately realised) a solution for booting Windows from remote storage using Linux. The downside it's not mature yet.
It will work great if your using Linux though (since you can netboot (relatively) easily) Should be better and faster then NFS.
The solution is 'iSCSI'. ISCSI is 'internet scsi', it's designed to allow machines to use scsi commands over a regular old TCP/IP network. It's basicly a network protocol designed for sharing files.
The difference between something like iSCSI and traditional file services like NFS or SMB/CIFS (windows file sharing protocol) is that iSCSI is a block-level file sharing system vs the others which are file-level file sharing system.
This means that instead of having a special file system that transfers over files as your operating system requests them, you are actually sharing the physical drive space over the network, block by block.
The advantage that this approach has over file-level is that CIFS imposses special file system permissions, doesn't work well with things like databases or special file types (such as named pipes) and so on and so forth. In comparision with iSCSI you just access the share as if it is a local disk and format it to your native file directory system.
Here is a comparison between NFS and ISCSI in terms of performance:
Keep in mind that the reason you would use NFS or Samba/Windows file sharing is that this allows you to share out files to many multiple clients. iSCSI is more designed to replicate having a local disk over a network.
For instance if your using Windows with a Linux file system using iSCSI you can do something like the following:
1. Setup file server with a large drive array using Linux software raid then use lvm (logical volume management) on top of that to make shares of various sizes. (this is nice because it gets away from the traditional partition sceme and moves to something that is much more flexible and allows things like snapshots and such).
5 200gig disks will give you a terrabyte of storage with raid 5 for redundancy..
2. Setup that file server to use something like Linux iSCSI enterprise target http://iscsitarget.sourceforge.net/
and share out a logical volume using it.
3. Install Windows on your PC desktop with a local very-quiet small laptop drive. (In the future you may be able to use IBM's iBoot http://www.haifa.ibm.com/projects/stora ... index.html
4. Install and setup Microsoft's iSCSI Software Initiator
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/deta ... layLang=en
I beleive how it works is that the 'Target' is the part that acts as a server and the 'Initiator' is what provides that storage access to the operating system. Note that these are software-based solutions to keep it inexpensive. There are ways to share out and access using hardware-based items.
This should then allow you to access to the iSCSI share and then you should be able to format it to NTFS and mount it as the D: drive or whatnot.
This should provide not only native 'local' style access to a remote share,but it will support all your native file permissions and special files and such. Also it should provide a substantial improvement in performance over using SMB.
So then for silent computing you'd just install all your programs onto 'drive D:', have your swap file be on drive D:, do some registry hacks to move your desktop and documents and such on that.
Then the local disk should end up being used as little as possible and thus be as quiet as possble, yet it should allow massive amounts of disk space to be made aviable with probably good performance. Probably then you can work on power management stuff to get it to sleep most of the time and such.
That's the theory anyways. I don't use Windows at all so I can't try it out myself, but when I get home I am going to try this out for myself. I would like to have something that would perform better then what I have with NFS and such.
There are propriatory software targets for Windows 2003 and such if you don't want to use Linux for a file server. Although these things are probably going to cost you a few hundred dollars or may only be aviable in turnkey solutions.
edit2: more information http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISCSI
they have a good overview of how the stuff is basicly suppose to work.