Node.js–A Great New Way to Build Web Apps

The past few years have seen Node.js explode on the application development scene like a superhero. Despite its humble beginnings with Yammer and Voxer, Node.js managed to establish its authority quite fast and is now seeing great mainstream adoption with giants like Walmart and PayPal putting their trust in it. Netflix too moved its website UI to Node.js from Java. Once the underdog, Node.js has established its credibility and superhero status within the enterprise and has an increasing number of developers adopting it to build fast and scalable web applications with this open source cross-platform runtime environment. Ever since its launch, Node.js has been seen as this cool and trendy server side platform that managed to attract the developer community. The great thing about Node.js is that it’s core functionality has been written in JavaScript making it a great choice for developing real-time applications. Apart from this, Node.js is packed with a host of other features that make it ideal for building web applications. So what makes Node.js so great?

  • Neutral Language
    Since Node.js supports JavaScript, the same language can be used in the front end as well as the backend thus breaking down front and back end development boundaries which make the development process more efficient. Considering that JavaScript is a language that is used by a majority of developers it saves them the trouble of translating code and helps in managing development time and cost. With the Node.js, framework developers do not need to translate the logic from their head on the server side framework and also do not have to translate the HTTP data from JSON (the data-interchange format) to the server side objects. Since Node.js is generally understood both by Java and .NET camps it makes it easier for the developers to deploy it on both Unix and Windows infrastructures.Node.js uses Google’s V8 engine on Chrome which is written in C++ and has an exceptional running speed as V8 has the capability to easily compile JavaScript into native machine code without any problem.
  • Scalability
    Node.js effectively solves the concurrency problems that plague developers unilaterally. The problem of concurrency in server-side programming languages often causes poor performance and impacts the throughput and scalability of an application. Developers get an event driven architecture with Node.js and non blocking I/O API which takes care of these issues. Node.js is also built to handle asynchronous I/O’s from the base up. This helps in managing many web development related problems.
    Node.js also splits a single process into multiple processes called workers by adopting the cluster module. This modules allows developers to create ‘child processes’ that can function under the ‘parent process’ and can communicate with the parent Node by sharing the server handles and by using IPC (Inter-process communication).

    Furthermore, applications in Node.js are easier to scale since the developers write simple code and Node.js simply takes over from there. Instead of using processes and threads, Node.js uses a simple Event Loop and defined call backs where the server automatically enters the loop when the callback definition ends for scaling efficiently. Simply put, Node.js helps applications execute common tasks like reading or writing to the filesystem, reading or writing to the network connections or to the database with ease and speed and makes applications capable of managing a large number of simultaneous connections with high throughput.

  • Built-in support
    Node.js has an inbuilt support for package management using the NPM, the Node Package Manager, a tool that comes as a default with Node.js installations. The NPM module is publicly available, has reusable components and is easily available through an online repository of over 300,000 packages with dependency and version management. This ecosystem encourages sharing and is open to all and gives developers more prospects to create effective solutions by giving them the opportunity to update, share and reuse code with ease.
  • Great for real-time web applications
    Developing real-time web applications such as chats and gaming apps in Node.js is extremely easy. Developers do not need to concern themselves with things such as low-level sockets and other such protocols. It allows the developers to write JavaScript on both the server and client side and facilitates automatic data synchronization by automatically sending data between the client and the server and ensures that data changes on the server are immediately reflected at the required points.Applications in Node.js are composed of small modules that are piped together which ensures that, unlike monolithic applications, these applications do not creak under unseen weight and stress. This also makes adding new functionalities to the application much easier as the changes do not need to be made deep inside the codebase.

    Along with all this, Node.js can also be used as a proxy server if the enterprise does not have the infrastructure for proxy. It also allows for actual data streaming and does not take HTTP requests and responses as isolated events and reduces processing time. Node.js applications are also capable of dealing with high loads. In 2013 Walmart put their entire traffic on Black Friday through Node.js and ensured that their servers did not exceed 1% of server utilization despite having 200, 000, 000 users online.

    Node.js has all the features that make it most appealing to the developer community and also renders it enterprise ready – it’s easy to scale, is secure and easy to learn. It also takes care of low latency issues that plague most tech companies because of the asynchronous input-output operations feature. Adding it all together, it is clear that with Node.js organizations can achieve more as it half the number of developers can be used to build products. It also reduces the number of required servers to service a client and increases app performance by reducing load times by almost 50%. Given the increasing industry confidence on Node.js, it is quite clear that its future is indeed bright.

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