It's definitely possible! If you have X11 forwarding set up on your SSH client and server, running Blender over the SSH connection should just work (I have tried it!). I am thinking of *nix-to-*nix here, but, on Windows, PuTTY can be configured to use Xming for X11 forwarding as well.
That said, as you suspect, the performance will be terrible unless you are using a fast LAN connection. Here is what I recommend doing.
- Set up both an SSH and a localhost VNC server on the computer on
which you want to run Blender (the server).
- Using SSH, forward the port that the VNC server is using from the server to the client.
- Now connect a VNC viewer, running on the client, to the port of the VNC server that you just forwarded to the client.
Some VNC servers and clients (like TigerVNC) support JPEG compression, so very usable framerates can be achieved with sub-optimal connections. I have been able to use Blender in the above configuration over a 10 megabit Internet connection without major problems. Another big advantage of using VNC over SSH is that applications running in the VNC server stay running even when a client is not connected (or even if a client is forcefully disconnected). Conversely, with SSH and X11 forwarding, the SSH connection must be maintained for as long as the application is used.
I think I should also mention x11vnc. From its website,
x11vnc allows one to view remotely and interact with real X displays (i.e. a display corresponding to a physical monitor, keyboard, and mouse) with any VNC viewer.
As such, it allows you to run Blender with hardware-accelerated OpenGL and still access it via VNC.