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They seriously must have been doing something wrong. We scale to 2000 requests a second on a good day on one not very hefty quad core SQL server 2008 box with 16Gb of ram and 2 front end web servers and a virtual active directory host. The requests are between 2-4 SQL queries a hit as well and can return hundreds of rows with 6 way joins galore thanks to nhibernate. Latency per hit is always less than 80ms.

We've done literally no tuning as well. It's all out of box. It just sucks up the requests and spits them out with a smile.

2,000 reads a second is not the same as tens of thousands of rows being updated or inserted a second. MSSQL is also not the bottleneck, flushing data to it is decoupled from the requests.

We do that as well. Our architecture is CQRS based so we're doing massive batched denormalisation and heavy writes.

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