Actually, if you have to change architectures, you are probably bitten anyway.
If you need performance:
1. Do as much as you can in one SQL statement (unless you are using MySQL where the optimizer sucks)
2. If you can't do it in one SQL statement, use PL/SQL to do data processing as close as possible to the data - this will save on network load and PL/SQL is highly optimized to reduce overhead for embedded SQL statements.
With all the talk about "horizontal scalability" we sometimes forget the benefits of writing fast code in first place.
Performance really comes down to what work are you doing, where does it take place, and how many disks and CPUs can you get involved to spread the load. For small amounts of load, you could say there's some gain from pushing more work in the database but it doesn't matter anyways. Large load, you're making the DB a bottleneck.