When we write the history of the IT era, the big factor that has played an important but not well recognized role will be hardware — specifically, the Oracle Exadata appliance that puts databases into memory for fast access and updates. All of the cloud software starting with the autonomous database on view this week at OpenWorld would be vastly different if the database was still running primarily on disk drives. In fact, the database would be running so slowly — relatively — that some of these solutions would remain theoretical.