Is the concept of a “dumb terminal” returning? Computing often comes full circle in terms of where hardware is put, and it seems Virtualization is making the concept of a dumb terminal an attractive one again, at least in some areas. Novell recently announced the introduction of a new project they are calling the ”Free the Penguins” Initiative, which will rely on high-powered single systems, virtualization and multiple input devices to provide computer access to several people at once from a single machine.

The idea is being pitched at schools, and coupled with several partners they are offering high-powered “Multiplier” systems to nonprofit schools and universities. The “Multiplier” systems rely on virtualization to operate multiple operating systems, each of which is controlled by a separate set of keyboard, mice and monitors – all hooked in via USB. Each system can support up to 10 terminals, with the companies involved pitching it as ideal for computer labs.

There are restrictions to the system, such as having to be within 10 feet of the system itself, but the idea is certainly interesting. They pitch it as a way to save money both in hardware costs and power costs, as one “Multiplier” system would use only a fraction of the power that 10 desktop PCs would.