In this article about Sun, the author talks about how using a Sun network meant that you could log onto any computer on a network and all of your personal tools and settings would be there. Is it possible to set up something like that with a Windows network? How about Linux?
On the linux side, it's a question of having your home directory mounted on login, which is the same concept as Roaming Profiles in windows. The difference between Windows and Linux being that, on a basic level, Windows would try to cache the files locally ( hence the slow initial login time ) and Linux would just mount. At this level, there are some pretty obvious advantages / disandantages to each method ...
Were you to wish to implement such a thing in Linux, this would either mean a centralized /home mounted from an NFS server, or per-user settings loaded on login via pam_mount. With the information possibly coming from NIS ( Sun's drepecated information tree ), or from LDAP being the Linux alternative/not-so-equivalent to Active Directory.
From memory they call that roaming profiles on a Win XP network. They may have changed the name since. You can find info below:
Logging on to a new machines requires the profile to be downloaded from the server. If you've got a ton of files on your desktop this first log-in could take a while. I also experienced some issues going from a dual monitor to a single monitor machine.
If you're looking to just have access to certain files, then user accessible shares on a server could work better.
As for tools, many companies have a site wide licence for software such as office etc so would have generic install on all of their machines.