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A Look Into Node.js

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A Look Into Node.js

In this article, we take a look at the reasons to use Node.js for developing web apps and for which use cases it should be used.

· Web Dev Zone ·
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Deploying code to production can be filled with uncertainty. Reduce the risks, and deploy earlier and more often. Download this free guide to learn more. Brought to you in partnership with Rollbar.

Recently, I came across an interesting snippet of data about Node.js: it is being utilized by a some of the greatest worldwide associations including NASA, Airbnb, PayPal, LinkedIn, Netflix, Uber, and Walmart. Actually, 98% of Fortune 500 companies utilize Node.js on a regular basis.

It is certainly overwhelming the market and for good reason.

According to Director of Engineering and Chief Architect at PayPal, their Node.js-based application required 33% fewer lines of code, handled double the number of requests per second, and shortened response time by 35% compared to the Java version.

That is a significant feat, wouldn't you say?

Many big companies have adopted Node.js in their production environment. Now it's time to take a quiz on what, why, and when. In this article, I'll examine the reasons to utilize Node.js for improvement and for which cases it would work the best.

About Node.js

Node.js is basically a server capable of executing JavaScript. At its core, Node.js is a server engine that you can alter and change, and it will just work after you set it up. It offers asynchronous and event-driven APIs so the requests to it are processed as a loop (event loop), and that's why Node.js is essentially a runtime. Being a part of the JavaScript ecosystem, which is awesome for application development, you can control it effortlessly alongside different JS tools, UIs, and connectors. In other words, it is an open source and cross-platform system for building web applications with just a few lines of code.

Here's a formal definition as given by the official Node.js website:

Node.js® is a "JavaScript runtime built on Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine".

Additionally, Node.js opens new opportunities for development.Now developers can use JavaScript on both the front-end and backend. Node.js contains a built-in, asynchronous I/O library for file, socket, and HTTP communication. Moreover, because of the single-threaded event loop architecture of Node.js, developers can also perform IO-intensive operations (such as responding to Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, requests) in a much swifter and simpler manner.

Why Choose Node.js

The main idea of Node.js: use non-blocking, event-driven I/O to remain lightweight and efficient in the face of data-intensive real-time applications that run across distributed devices.

Ryan Dahl, the inventor of Node.js, states that being inspired by applications like Gmail, he was aiming to devise a system for building websites with real-time push capabilities. So, the event-driven programming became the heart of Node.js.

"With event-driven programming, Tom Hughes-Croucher author of Node: Up and Running) says, 'The actual amount of resources you use is much smaller, and you can get a lot more out of fewer servers.'"

What Is Node.js Good For?

In short, Node.js applications are devised to maximize throughput and efficiency, using non-blocking I/O and asynchronous events. Node.js applications run single-threaded, although it uses multiple threads for file and network events. Due to its asynchronous nature, Node.js is commonly used for real-time applications.

Simply, Node.js is a giant ecosystem of JavaScript that's perfect for real-time.

To internally execute code, Node.js uses the Google V8 JavaScript engine and a large percentage of the basic modules are written in JavaScript. And the asynchronous I/O library for HTTP and socket support allow Node.js to act as a web server without additional software such as Apache.

Combined with the ubiquity of the Node Package Manager (NPM), Node.js has established its place as the de facto standard for server-side JavaScript.

So, while there is some discussion about suitable Node.js use, what are the best use cases? Payment gateways, media, e-commerce platforms, social media, enterprise web apps, and backends/APIs for mobile apps are the potential application areas of Node.js.

Node.js for the Future

The chat application is the most typical real-time application where Node.js shows what it can do in terms of handling multiple users, intensive data, big traffic, and running across devices. Additionally, it's  great to learn Node while making a chat app, as it covers almost all the programming of a typical Node.js application.

Because of HTML, server-side web applications are not a typical use case for Node.js. However, in the event that you combine Node.js and Express.js, you can make exemplary web applications on the server-side.

Node.js has some positive highlights in data streaming utilizing the fact that HTTP requests and responses are basically data streams. For example, processing data while it's simply being transferred, e.g. for sound/video encoding. 

Another use case of Node.js is monitoring dashboards to gather on-going information about website visitors and visualization. User statistics and the ability to see what they are doing instantly, is definitely a great add-on for businesses.

Time will prove whether Node is that next big thing.

Node.js was never made to solve the compute scaling issue. It was made to tackle the I/O scaling issue, which it does extremely well. Being single-threaded, Node.js might be a bad choice for web servers serving as computational servers, since heavy computation will block the server's responsiveness. If your use case does not contain CPU escalated activities or get to any blocking resources, you can exploit the advantages of Node.js and make quick and adaptable system applications.

Deploying code to production can be filled with uncertainty. Reduce the risks, and deploy earlier and more often. Download this free guide to learn more. Brought to you in partnership with Rollbar.

Topics:
web dev ,node.js ,web application development ,backend

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