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it seems that the old 'Ruby use -> slowness' implication no longer holds.

That's a fallacy in the first place (at least for web apps)... Most web application code spends most of its time waiting for the db to respond, not number-crunching.

That does not mean performance is irrelevant, does it? Heavily used web apps benefit a lot from a fast runtime (it allows you to push the point where you have to split across servers forward quite a bit), and being able to do CPU-intensive stuff in the same environment when you need to instead of having to bust out the C or Java or whatever is very pleasant.

You can do CPU-intensive tasks using a general purpose Python API with SciPy/NumPy. Yes, it's implemented in C.

Actually I've heard of a number of Rails apps that are CPU bound rather than being IO bound, and that's with the database hosted on a separate server.

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