I did a product evaluation for a call centre. I looked at deploying 50+ terminals on an exposed ground floor office. Using VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and the starter packs : 3 back-end servers. Costs came in around 30% cheaper than buying 50 new desktops.
As regards deployment - deploying 50 desktops on VMWare VDI would have taken about 2 days. One day to prepare the image we wanted, and another day to convert it to a VMWare image and set up the deployment transformation scripts.
Final analysis was that VDI would mean a cost of less than 50% of the cost of buying new PC's and getting them set up in the traditional image/sysprep method. Added advantages of centralised management, easy patching, simple to extend the capabilities to homeworkers using VPN, and no data on the desktop (in case of ram raid and IT equipment theft)
Added IT deployment bonus was that we could set it up in under a week and be ready to drop Wyse terminals on desktops the day people moved in, rather than having to buy 50 PC's and set them up leaving them in an empty exposed office.
We also found Wyse terminals at £200 were a lot more cost effective than desktops at £400 - also, its only the screen they display, the back-end grunt can be upgraded centrally by beefing up the servers, so less IT equipment churn, an a lot lot less PC envy. ;)
So all in all - I think that centralised computing with dumb terminals on the desktop is coming back - but this is not the first time it has returned. We will continue to centralise, decentralise and so and and so forth until we have the computers embedded in our brains with a hive mesh wireless network to control us all? Was JRR Tolkein actually talking about token networks ????