Node.js Experience

Let’s talk a bit about server programming, especially about Node.js, which we are using in most of our clients’ projects. Let’s take a quick look on its history.

Node.js was created by Ryan Lienhart Dahl in 2009. This is a runtime environment for developing server-side of a Web Applications. It is an open-source and cross-platform technology that allows to create web servers and networking tools using JavaScript. Developers from all over the world can write modules for it. Nowadays, Node.js’ package ecosystem, NPM, is the largest ecosystem of open source libraries in the World.

Node interprets JS using Google’s V8 engine, which was built for Chrome browser, and has been used to run JS on the computer. What we know good about V8 engine? It works really fast with JavaScript, do a better job than some of its alternatives like Rhino, JSC, WSC, etc. V8 is very economical with memory, and well-optimized, it allows to do CPU and memory profiling.

The basic idea here is to use non-blocking event-driven I/O to be lightweight and efficient when working with applications that process large amounts of data in real time, which running on distributed devices. Ryan added I/O and special libraries to V8, that’s’ how Node.js was born.

Nowadays many famous projects use Node, for example: PayPal & eBay, LinkedIn, Google, Netflix, Uber, GitHub, Trello etc. Again we’ll try to find out Node.js advantages for Web development, and in the end of this article we hope that you’ll have some basic understanding that can help you in making decision of your next project’s stack. So let’s start.

  1. At first, Node is not a Swiss knife for all occasions, opposite, it is a platform for solving strictly defined tasks. Do not use Node for operations that highly loads your CPU. Using it in heavy computations will nullify all of its advantages. Node is very useful when you are writing some fast and scalable network applications. It allows you to process a huge number of connections with high throughput. Node works very economically, it works in a single-thread, using non-blocking I/O calls, allowing it to support thousands of concurrent connections. It is hard to organize high-loaded Node.js server and you should have an experienced developer to do it, but for example, it can reaches scalability of over1M concurrent connections. So Node is an instrument to solve any typical task in today’s Web Development.Some remark:

“We should say about the biggest difference between Node and PHP, that is popular for web development too. Most functions in PHP block until completion (command executes after previous commands have completed), while functions in Node are non-blocking (commands execute in parallel, and use callbacks to signal completion or failure). It raises the application speed comparing with app on PHP servers, and we use this argument when we are negotiating with our customers.”

2. We shall notice, that Node.js has package manager called NPM, and it is perfect. It is fast, robust and also consistent. It is some kind of publicly available set of components, that you could easily install via online. It became a powerful instrument that allows to build complex and modern web applications with it.

Here are some popular modules that makes Node.js even more powerful:

-Express.js — framework for Node that became a standard in today’s web development. It provides various features to make web application development fast and easy, which otherwise takes more time using only Node.js. Let’s take a closer look on it:

  • It makes web application development fast and easy;
  • It is easy to customize and configure;
  • Easy to integrate with different template engines like Jade, Vash, EJS etc.
  • Allows you to define an error handling middleware.
  • Easy to serve static files and resources of your application.
  • Allows to create REST API server.
  • Easy to connect with databases such as MongoDB, Redis, MySQL
  • Allows to define routes of your application based on HTTP methods and URLs;
  • Includes different middleware modules which can be used to perform additional tasks on request and response.

– Connect: is an extensible HTTP server framework for Node using “plugins” known as middleware.

– Mongoose: elegant mongodb object modeling.

-Socket.io is a module to manage persistent connections between client and server, that allows the server to push updates to clients in real-time.

-Jade, underscore, forever and many others.

So NPM speed’s up node.js server’ development and enables to use all the benefits of this technology with a lot of great modules. It reduces development time and saves budgets for server development.

  • We shall notice that the community reason is important too. Node has big and responsive developers’ community. There are a lot of individuals and small companies that writes modules for it. This fact makes the development process more comfortable, developers feel support and can rely on each other.
  • You write your server using JavaScript. So the same language can be used on a front-end too. This technology breaks down the boundaries between front-end and back-end, making the development process more comfort in many ways for developers, who knows JS well. In most of web projects this approach is justified.

As we saw Node.js is a powerful technology that gives the ability for building modern and scalable web applications. Further we will look at some applications examples where you should use Node.js.

  1. Projects that works with Object data-bases.
    It is very comfort to use Node with data bases such a MongoDB, because data that stored in JSON files, allow Node.js to function without loss of compliance and without any data conversion. Working with Node you can just provide JSON objects to the client through REST API without any converting.

2. Projects with chat functionality.
It is probably the ideal example of where you should use Node.js. It is lightweight application with high traffic and intensive data processing, that is working on many distributed devices. Here Node will handle many concurrent connections, to maintain smooth user experience.

3. Projects where you receive a high amount of concurrent data. Issues where your database can deliver problems because access to it is a blocking operation. The solution is to fix client’s behavior before the data is truly written to the database. Data lines up with help of special infrastructure, the responsiveness of the system is preserved under high load, which is especially useful if the client does not require proof that the data record is successful.

4. Projects that assume data streaming. For example, it could be used for audio/video encoding service, proxying between different data sources.

5. For classic Web applications that use request-response paradigm.

6. It can be used as a proxy server, because it can handle a large number of concurrent connections in non-blocking mode.

In Soshace we often use Node.js in our projects, not because we are JS developers, but because that most of modern projects/startups use it nowadays. So the idea of using one language on back-end and front-end, the demand for fast and scalable applications increase Node’s popularity. It is a comfort and powerful instrument for every JS developer. Of course, we do not want to cast a shadow on other technologies that are powerful in their own way, we just want to say that with this technology our team can implement best practices in today’s web-development, and provide you a great-working software.

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