Some quick performance numbers around bulk insert of data into MySQL.  This test inserts 1000 rows into a table.  Rails 2.1.0, ar-extensions 0.8.0 and MySQL 5.0.45 on a MacBook Pro running Leopard.  I tested a number of configurations but the interesting ones are plain old iteration calling save, using ar-extensions' import method and bare metal execute.

So the DB driver only takes 3/100s of a second to do the actual insert and return.  Generating a multi-insert statement properly takes almost a half-second.  Proper validation adds almost another second of overhead.  Dumb iteration is slowest of all, due to the repeated round trips to the database.

As a side note, 50% of the overhead in generating the multi-insert statement comes from the DB adapter's quote method.  It's too bad Rails can't enforce a convention of "all identifiers must be database-safe" so quoting isn't so heavyweight.

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