TL; DR; version: Maven 3.0.3 has a performance-regression while resolving dependencies. This is because it uses version 1.11 of aether. The problem has been fixed in version 1.12 of aether, but a version of maven with this library is not available. I built maven from source with the 1.12 version of aether, so use maven-3.0.3-with-aether-1.12.zip if you have the same problem.
The whole story: At work we use Maven to build our project. Over the last few months, we started noticing a disparity in build times between different developers even though the hardware they were using was similar to each other (Core i7's with 6 Gb RAM). Initially we suspected that it might have to do with SSD performance-degradation. Some of us were using SSD's that didn't support TRIM and others didn't have TRIM enabled. I was one of the few with the former problem. I secure-erased my drive but still saw no performance benefits. I even got a new drive and even with that I didn't see much of an improvement either.
We finally realized that the build-time disparity was related to the version of maven some developers were using. On maven 3.0b1, build times are much faster compared to 3.0.3. In 3.0.3 there is a performance regression when maven tries to build the dependency graph. For example, using 3.0b1 our project built in 3 minutes and 30 seconds, whereas using 3.0.3, the build times were upwards of 9 minutes. Long build-times take away from the amount of productive coding-time a developer has.
I was determined to find the reason for this performance regression and did some investigation by looking at the source for 3.0b1 and 3.0.3. In 3.0b1, maven uses its own code to resolve dependencies and build the dependency graph, whereas in 3.0.3 it uses the aether library. For more background information on the matter, take a look at this post on the maven developer's mailing list and this JIRA issue.
Long story short, to get better build times, maven needs to use version 1.12 of aether. I downloaded the maven source and edited the pom.xml file to use version 1.12 of aether. I then built maven from source and got a deployable version that uses the newer aether library. When I tested it out, the build times were comparable to 3.0b1.
I initially thought that version 3.0.4 of maven would include version 1.12 of aether. But it turns out that there were licensing changes and so the maven developers are discussing whether to include it. In the meantime, you can use this version of maven that I built from source, which includes version 1.12 of aether. It's a zip file and you can install it like you would normally install maven.