I talked about hypothetical silver bullets in the recent past at a conference and to customers and VCs. Basically, there is no such thing as a silver bullet … no magic pixie dust, or magical card, or superfantastic software you can add to a system to make it incredibly faster.
Faster, better performing systems require better architecture (physical, algorithmic, etc.). You really cannot hope to throw a metric-ton of machines at a problem and hope that scaling is simple and linear. Because it really never works like that. You can’t hope that a pile of inefficient cheap and deep machines has any hope whatsoever of beating a very well architected massively parallel IO engine at moving/analyzing data. Its almost embarrassing at how bad these pile of machines are running IO/compute intensive code, when their architecture effectively precludes performance.
Software matters. So does hardware.
What prompted this post (been very busy, but I felt I had to get this out) was this article on HN. I know its an older article, but the points made about implementation mattering in software for a distributed/scalable system, matter just as much (if not more) for high performance hardware systems.