I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head, Steve. My perception (which could be incorrect so correct me if I'm wrong) of what you said is that there will always the need for a “DBA” even if the title disappears. It may be that certain aspects of being a DBA disappear (as many aspects already have) because of the advent of supposed “managed systems” but even those systems are going to need people that understand the sometimes extreme limitations there and know the work-arounds to keep the proverbial poo from hitting the fan or to be able wipe the blades in a timely manner while the blades are still spinning when it does. And there will always be a need to support the statement “Go see so-and-so they’ll be able to figure it out”.
As for throwing hardware at a problem, I have to laugh there a bit. Frequently, having more CPUs come into play only means that you have code that will use more CPUs for some really bad code to do their accidental cross-joins with or just a whole lot more runs of some really bad, long running, high resource, single threaded code that will still squeeze other code out of the picture (causing a fit of blocking or deadlocks as I've seen happen too often) as bad or worse than the accidental cross joins do. There's also the question that comes up after you've thrown hardware at the problem and that is "Ok... we doubled the CPU's (now costing twice as much as a good DBA in licensing fees alone) and have a TeraByte of memory and it's still slow... now what"? 😀
There are also the full-stack experts that do think a database is just a place to store data and, when they do run into a performance problem, will frequently brush it off by saying "Well... it has a lot of data and so it's doing a lot of work" and "It's because we're using a database instead of <insert shiny new software name here>". It's always funny when they have to dump that new software for the next shiny new software because they didn't understand that the software wasn't the problem nor is the database server the problem. Instead, it was and continues to be a PEBCAK problem, instead. 😀
A lot of people just don't know what they don't know nor what some of the possibilities are (the latter of which is sometimes difficult even for really good people to keep up with). An example of the former is all the TF 3605 messages in my SQL Server Log Files that were put there by experts that wrote monitoring software and serious growth of allocated but unused space in the related MDF file by those and other experts that don't understand the true nature of "Fast Inserts" or the experts that actually help you fragment your indexes and cause your log file to explode by helping you to follow "Best Practices" that actually aren't and were never we meant to be.
That even caught me for well over a decade until I figured out what was causing it all. That brings up another problem... documentation that is written by experts and then interpreted by other experts. Like one very good man in my life said long before the internet was a sparkle in anyone's eye, "Jeff, be careful how you look at what you read because half of all that is written is wrong and the other half is written in such a fashion that you can't actually tell".
There will always be the need for that "Go See" person, even if others don't recognize the need. Unfortunately, the "others" I speak of are usually the ones that control the purse strings yet have no idea how much they could actually save in rework costs and embarrassment in front of the customer, possibly causing them to lose business.
And to be sure, I used to be a front-end Developer. I know what those poor buggers have to go through and I know also know that management frequently doesn't understand that you can't be an expert at everything (even in one discipline because there's just too much to know to do it right nor why "it's taking so long". And the people they work for also think that a database is just a place to store data and so they never fund any database training the for people that should know everything.
To summarize, I have to quote @m60freeman from above... "I'm sure there are lots of companies out there right now who desperately need a DBA, but don't know it."
As a bit of a sidebar, a good number of such people cut their teeth on this very site for becoming the “Go see” person I spoke of. Thank you and RedGate for keeping this site online and healthy and for the awesome community that developed because of it.