One year later, I began using S3 via JungleDisk at home as a way to backup my hundreds of gigabytes of photos.
Then a couple of weeks ago, I saw a very compelling demo of Mark Logic, "a provider of infrastructure software for information-centric applications" (re: funding announcement) running on EC2. It was very compelling to see a new product built on their platform and deployed to EC2 in under 30 minutes.
So I went back and took another look at EC2 and specifically the EC2 Operating System and Software or in their language, "off the shelf" Amazon Machine Images. In a nutshell, some of the standard web platforms can be purchased and installed as images. Want Windows, ASP.Net, MS SQL - check, they have it. J2EE on MySQL - check they have that too. Oracle DB, DB2 - yup these are available.
As a Startup CTO, it was pretty easy to get hosting solved. Call one of a dozen hosting vendors, select hardware line, OS, number of systems, purchase via credit card, wait 24 hours or less, get root/admin access to your server farm, spend time installing your applications, figure out how to scale the application later.
Possibly today's version: All the steps above except (a) replace hosting vendor w/ Amazon, (b) get the software infrastructure (web platform and db) largely configured on purchase, (c) probably spend even less money on hosting, and (d) leverage Amazon services to scale.
Bottom line: If you aren't looking at the cloud, better start and get caught up quickly. For me, work in progress.