Steve Lohr had a typically good piece in The New York Times on how database hardware is catching up to analytics software and how the results will be powerful. You can read the article here.
Some think this represents a one of those discontinuous leaps in computing equilibrium. Here's the money quote:
Advances in such underlying technologies are fueling the current excitement in fields like artificial intelligence, robotics and data analysis and prediction. “All parts of the technology pipeline are gearing up at the same time, and that’s how you get this explosion of new applications and uses,” says Jon Kleinberg, a computer scientist at Cornell University.
Behind the seeming explosion, experts say, is a process of technology evolution. Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster, compares the process to the evolutionary biology concept known as “punctuated equilibria” formulated by the paleontologists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge. The idea is that species often evolve in periodic spurts.
Essentially, these super fast databases enable real time analytics and that opens the door for many new applications. Think high frequency trading for the rest of us.