During my lifetime I've seen many changes in the computing world. In the good old days, hand assembling Z80 code consumed my afternoons (no link, because if you don't know what a Z80 is, then shame on you!) [enter geezer mode] I worked on homebrews, TRS-80, PET, Apple-][ before they fixed the keyboard, Apple-///, PC-XT with expansion cabinet, Lisa, Chromatics, Various VAXen and PDPs, Sun-2s, Sun-3s, Sun-4s, PICs, HP-64000, embedded systems of various vintages, Xenix, various BSDs, Ultrix 1, SunOS 2-5, Linux pre-1.0, OS-9 (the MicroWare version), CPM, TurboDOS, MS-DOS \*, VMS, NIS, NIS+, DNS, sendmail, majordomo, Tcl,and probably a bunch of others I've forgotten. Heck, I once wrote a e-mail system for a multi-user word processing system.
Now I'm tired.
I've now taken the position that jives with David Berlind and the Gartner Group. And I think I might accidentally have become a poster child for Jonathan Schwartz's view of computing, too. When recently lamenting about the local communications plan used in the event of emergencies and the various clubs I belong to, I found myself explaining to various non-computer literate people how e-mail aliases work and why they are so much more handy than stacks of post-it notes or dozens of versions of VCF equivalents to post-it notes. Argv! Surely I don't want to setup yet another e-mail server with mailman or majordomo so that people can manage their own access to pushed information and don't need to bother me about it. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.
So, I've rented those services. The rent can be quite reasonable because the people who do setup such services can take advantage of consistency and economies of scale. Our costs are quite modest, and my personal take is that I can spend a lot more of my time doing Ranch activities and less time hacking config files. Clearly, this is a win-win situation. And I expect that there are plenty more such activities which can be managed similarly. Why, just today, we were discussing quotas for file systems in the university environment. When I was the Network Manager for the College of Engineering at Auburn University I constantly had to fight to provide disk space for students and engineer effective means to prevent them from consuming all of the available disk space with music or pictures. Today, I'd say just rent it from the various companies like GoDaddy, Flickr, or just buy it in the form of USB flash drives. If you're a geezer like me, you might be conditioned to think that disk space is expensive, like long distance phone rates were. Today, those things aren't expensive, per se. Managing those things is expensive, so we might as well let someone else do it.
I've always thought that Sun was an excellent company at providing the platform for people to build such services upon -- whether is was ECAD systems back in the mid-1980s or something more invisibly useful to the masses today. I'm glad to see that Jonathan seems to share that same vision.