>everyone keeps talking about how VNC is the solution for network transparancy,
Not really. It's been mentioned, but mostly people have been talking about RDP and SPICE because VNC is unlikely to ever be a good protocol for transparent remote access.
>but VNC requires that you have the entire desktop installed on the system you are accessing.
This is so silly. We're talking about software that doesn't yet exist picking a protocol for network transparency; why would anyone assume that it would directly copy implementation details of existing software that's designed for a different purpose?