Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails: A Deep Dive Into Backend Frameworks

February 16, 2021
12 mins read
Last Updated September 09, 2021
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Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails: A Deep Dive Into Backend Frameworks

Presentation and eye-catching elements hold a lot more precedence these days. Web development now involves a lot more attention to the look and feel of the application. It should be smooth, intuitive, and dynamic. While all of this may sound like a frontend concern, achieving all these goals isn’t possible without a robust backend framework. It’s the backend that powers all those slick maneuvers at the frontend. 

And then everything right from processing complex logics to managing web traffic, is tied to the efficiency of the backend. No wonder app owners sweat themselves out when it comes to choosing the right backend framework for their next project. There are so many amazing frameworks out there with awesome capabilities that it becomes very easy to get stuck into analysis paralysis.

However, things get a little easier when you start focusing on your project requirements rather than on framework’s features. We’ve adopted this approach to compare the best backend frameworks available out there. In this installment, we take Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails and present the pros and cons of both frameworks with respect to your project goals. Be it the budget, TAT, scalability, or any other factor you are concerned about, this article will put all your apprehensions to rest. So let’s get started: 

What is Node.js? – An Overview

Node.js is a server-side, Javascript-based runtime environment that’s a massive open-source tool. It attributes its success as a high-performance, scalable framework to the single-threaded process used for web loads and async programming. What’s more, you can use Nodejs-based frameworks such as Express, Socket.io, and Meteor.js within it to enhance the backend capability of a project. Designed with real-time and push-based architectures, the technology is known to build single-page applications, websites, and backend API services. 

Here are some Market usage stats of Nodejs as a backend technology:

  • 66.8% of developers rated Node.js as the most loved tool in Stackoverflow Developer Survey Report 2020
  • 85% of Node.js developers use it for web app development, and the other 43% use it for enterprise-grade applications. 
  • 51.4% of developers regarded Node.js as the most-used tool earlier in the 2020.
  • StackOverflow Trends has noted an increase in the discussion around Node.js over the last decade covering almost 3.5% of questions.
    node.js use trends

Use cases of Node.js 

  • Streaming web applications 
  • Real-time software & Streaming apps (Collaboration tools used for video/audio conferencing, document editing, Chat applications, etc. )
  • Complex Single-page apps 
  • Microservices 
  • IoT-based applications 
  • Backends and servers
  • Developing APIs
  • Scripting and automation

Popular apps using Node.js as backend technology

  • NASA revealed that Node.js made migrating data from legacy databases to a cloud database effortless. It created a single database for any query and reduced access time by a massive 300%. 
  • Twitter launched Twitter Lite with a 30% faster launch time and quick loading on slower connections.
  • Netflix decreased startup times and significantly improved performance. They migrated their backend from Java to Node.js that resulted in a decrease in startup time from 40 minutes to 60 seconds. 
  • Trello implemented instant propagation of updates. As the application organizes tasks on an agile basis, they wanted a tool that instantly reflects the updates without reloading the page.  

Check how we improved the online web experience for International Hockey Federation (FIH) using Node.js.

What is Ruby on Rails? – An Overview

Ruby on Rails, commonly known as Rails or RoR, is an open-source, server-side web application framework written in Ruby. It was first introduced to the world by David Heinemeier Hanson in 2004. The framework is among the best options out there for beginners to readily build and deploy functioning full-stack web applications and websites. 

Here are some cool usage stats for Ruby on Rails:

  • The framework has more than 2.5k watchers and 47.5k stars on Github.
  • SimilarTech reported that there are 394,000 websites powered by RoR.
  • Computers Electronics and Technology, with 6.64%, has the biggest share of projects based on the framework among other industry verticals.

Use cases of Ruby on Rails

  • Web applications 
  • MVPs
  • eCommerce applications
  • Social-networking applications
  • Cloud apps with complex databases

What popular apps are built using Ruby on Rails?

  • Github is a popular platform for private and public software repositories and contains more than 61 million repositories for its 22 million users worldwide. They have been able to improve performance, improve documentation, and add features over the years along with Rail releases. 
  • Basecamp is a renowned project management tool and the first application developed using Ruby on Rails. The fact that they spend only 15% of their budget on RoR speaks volumes about the cost effectiveness of RoR.
  • Airbnb is a hospitality app that connects travelers and property owners worldwide and currently boasts of more than 5.6 million listings in more than 220 countries and regions. They were able to reduce the TTM using the high speed development capabilities of the framework. 
  • SlideShare lets its vast 80 million user-base share and access slides uploaded on the platform, putting up more than 159 million page views. Using RoR, they were able to scale to 3 million unique visitors in their first years without any hiccups.
  • Bloomberg caters financial and business news to its incredibly high traffic of 100 million users per month and garnered a whopping $10 billion in 2018. They were able to deliver a very intuitive interface right from the get-go using RoR’s development capabilities.

Pros and Cons—Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails

Pros of Node.js

  • Unopinionated: Builds everything from scratch with fewer restrictions, which gives developers the freedom to code their own way. 
  • Non-blocking I/O System: Lets you process several requests simultaneously, resulting in more scalability and faster performance. 
  • Active Community: Allows access to readily available solutions and codes that makes easy for startups and beginner developers. 
  • Easy to learn: Developers with an experience in Javascript as a frontend language can easily adapt to the framework.
  • Full-Stack Privilege: Allows Node.js developers to write frontend and backend both in Javascript. This enables smooth deployment of apps and reduces the learning curve. 
  • Caching facility: Caches single modules in the application memory and eliminates the need to re-execute the code for faster response times. 
  • Extensive support: Assists developers with commonly used tools for different purposes such as testing or identifying project dependencies. 

Cons of Node.js

  • Productivity loss: Since everything needs to be written from scratch, you may experience a decline in productivity. Beginners find it difficult to build apps from scratch due to its unopinionated nature. 
  • Not suitable for extensive computing: Although Node.js supports complex apps, it doesn’t fare well with heavy computing (CPU intensive) apps. Additionally, it is less efficient at heavy calculations as it doesn’t support multi-threaded programming. 
  • Difficult to maintain code due to Async nature: Due to nested callbacks in Node.js and its heavy reliance on asynchronicity, it becomes tedious to maintain and difficult to understand code.
  • Some of its tools lack quality– Some Node.js tools don’t match high-coding standards and are not correctly structured due to its open-source ecosystem.

Pros of Ruby on Rails

  • Shorter development time: Ruby comes with strong adherence to ‘convention over configuration.’ The framework’s developer-friendly and object oriented nature also helps reduce the development time significantly.
  • Pocket friendly: With lesser time spent at the development stage and access to a rich talent pool of RoR developers, you can easily save some bucks on the project. Additionally, the open-source nature of the framework also saves you some licensing fees.
  • Supportive community: The community supports other members through ‘gems’ and helps with bug fixes and security concerns.
  • Smoother production cycle: RoR sticks to the gold standards of development and follows the convention over configuration features, resulting in fewer bugs in production and in general.
  • Easy testability: It automatically creates skeleton code while the developer creates models and controllers.

Cons of Ruby on Rails

  • Slow run-time speed: It gives a slower run-time speed compared to some of the other backend frameworks. However, most performance issues stem from improper database management.
  • Lack of flexibility: Things might start getting difficult as you stray away from a standard web application. RoR doesn’t provide much room for customization of dependencies and modules.
  • Amplifies mistakes: Architectural mistakes at the initial development stages could haunt you later. You need to lay a solid foundation to build an effective RoR application.

Performance and speed comparison—Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails

While performance should not be a killer factor for small projects, it becomes extremely important to consider it when building complex and large projects. With that being said, let’s compare Node.js and Ruby on Rails in terms of performance.

How does Node.js stand out in terms of performance?

As it inherits the asynchronous and non-blocking from Javascript, Node.js creates a perfect environment for small tasks (micro-operations/tasks) that don’t affect the main application thread. What’s more, with the V8 Javascript engine, multitasking becomes more efficient and functions at a lightening speed. 

The framework processes many requests simultaneously compared to other backend solutions. In fact, a large number of tech giants are turning towards Node.js for its performance. Paypal, for one, saw a 35% drop in the average response time and doubled their requests per second. Another such example is Linkedin that reduced its servers from 30 to 3 as they migrated to Node.js. Now doesn’t that speak volumes?

How does Ruby on Rails stand out in terms of performance?

Ruby on Rails is by no means the most performant or fastest backend framework out there. There are a few fundamental properties, Ruby as an interpreted tool and garbage collection, that slow down RoR application under specific circumstances. However, such instances happen only in rare cases like when the traffic scales significantly.

Having said that, Ruby on Rails is able to create efficient web applications with satisfactory performance in most cases. All you need to do is ensure the adherence to development standards, and the rest is a smooth sail.

node.js performance

Application architecture—Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails

When choosing a framework, it’s important to choose flexibility and avoid any strict enforcement of architecture and guidelines.  As a matter of fact, it’s always recommended to treat a framework as a guide, not methods, and standards. That said, let’s juxtapose Node.js and Ruby on Rails with each other and check whether they are flexible in terms of architecture.

What kind of architecture does Node.js support?

Under the hood, Node. js leverages the Single-threaded Event Loop architecture that enables it to handle multiple concurrent requests with high performance. However, Node.js also lets you use MVC/ MVP architecture pattern, which eases isolating and onboarding issues in the application codebase. In addition to this, it creates multiple views for the same data and supports asynchronous communication between various components. 

Here’s how you benefit from the async architecture of Node.js:

  • Processes multiple concurrent requests simultaneously and offers high performance. 
  • Ensures faster and flexible development of modules.
  • Reduces time-to-market of applications.

What kinds of architecture does Ruby on Rails support?

Ruby on Rails follows the prevalent MVC (Model View Controllers) architecture. The model layer is where you state the rules to manipulate data as well as store business logic. The view takes care of the application’s front end, whereas the controller is responsible for the application flow.

The architecture allows for easier testing and decoupling at later stages because of convenient separation of concerns. Ruby on Rails also follows the convention-over-configuration principle. It leads to lesser legwork for developers as it means the framework has already made some decisions for them.

Scalability—Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails

Frameworks significantly influence the web application scalability, therefore, the right choice of framework is important. Here’s how Node.js and Ruby on Rails stand out in terms of scalability.

How scalable is Node.js?

Node.js builds highly-scalable applications. The non-blocking I/O and event-driven model handles multiple concurrent requests. Moreover, the event-loop mechanism enables the server to process maximum requests. What’s more, Node.js makes the best compatibility with microservices by segregating applications into smaller parts. That way, it’s efficient to allocate tasks among different development teams and build applications more quickly and scalably.

Is Ruby on Rails scalable?

It’s possible to scale with Ruby on Rails, but the process requires you to invest more resources as compared to some of the other leading backend frameworks. A lot of questions were posed on RoR’s scalability when Twitter switched from the framework. However, applications like Shopify and Airbnb should be enough to highlight Rails’ capability to handle higher traffic. Inadequate memory management and Ruby’s poor concurrency sprouts up issues when trying to scale quickly on the platform.

Check how we helped Red Bull to build a scalable solution using Node.js

Ease of testing—Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails

To be able to work without a glitch under continuous, high load and growing market expectations, your application development project needs to go through a series of tests to ensure compliance with the UI standards, compatibility, and usability. Here’s how Node.js and Ruby on Rails stand out when compared with testing.

How easier is it to test Node.js/ applications?

Node.js offers competent testing and debugging capabilities with its rich ecosystem of third-party packages. Various automated testing tools/frameworks like Mocha, Jest, Lab and Code, Jasmine, and AVA create a sound testing ecosystem for Node.js apps. Moreover, you could use testing libraries such as Mocha, Jest, and Chai to offer a seamless, bug-free experience to your users.

How easier is it to test a Ruby on Rails app?

Testing is intrinsically woven into Ruby on Rails, which makes it simple and effective to conduct within the framework. As a developer creates models and controllers, Rails automatically starts producing skeleton test code. This leads to a considerable legwork reduction. Additionally, its emphasis on best development practices also reduces intricacies during the testing phase.

Microservices compatibility—Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails

Is Node.js compatible with Microservices architecture?

Both Node.js and Microservices build smaller parts of services and code modules. Node.js is suitable for developing scalable apps as it’s efficient at handling multiple concurrent requests. Thus, it makes an absolute combination for building enterprise-grade complex applications with higher scalability.

Is Ruby on Rails compatible with Microservices architecture?

Ruby on Rails generally leans towards monolithic architecture but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used in a microservices architecture. Airbnb, for one, initially started with a monolithic architecture, but as the system grew bigger, it got increasingly complex to manage and deploy code. It then switched to a microservices architecture and were able to deploy 3,500 microservices per week with ease after the migration. Hence, Ruby on Rails can easily take care of your microservices’ needs and deployments.

Database support—Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails

How good is the database-support for Node.js?

Node.js supports all kinds of databases like relational and NoSQL databases. However, it’s best to use a NoSQL database like MongoDB as it stores data in JSON objects, which offers more accessibility for Javascript-based backends like Node.js. 

As a matter of fact, you can use “mongoose” to manage relationships with data. The object data-modeling library is exclusively built for Node.js and MongoDB. Moreover, it boosts productivity by increasing code readability, maintaining code flexibility and providing a modelling for applications’ data among others.

How good is the database-support for Ruby on Rails?

Ruby on Rails comes configured for SQLite. However, you can easily choose from a bunch of other database management systems supported by Rails, such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, and OpenBase. Additionally, Rails also allows the use of multiple databases so that you don’t put all eggs in one basket.

Community—Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails

How big is the community around Node.js?

Node.js holds a well-supported and robust community. It is reported on Stackoverflow that 51.4% of professional developers use Node.js for frameworks, libraries, and tools. Tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google have made significant contributions to the Node.js environment, making the technology more credible. 

There are several community forums for Node.js such as,

How big is the community around Ruby on Rails?

Ruby on Rails boasts of its large, mature, and supportive community. It features everyone from beginners to subject matter experts working on the framework for more than a decade. It has more than 47.5k stars and 4000+ contributors on Github. They also have a healthy following on other platforms with 154,000 members on Reddit and more than 300,000 questions tagged on Stack Overflow. There is also a flourishing community of 14,700 RoR enthusiasts on Slack. Then there is also an active Gitter group with more than 6,000 people discussing everything around the framework. Apart from these, you can also find plenty of Discord servers with active communities following ideas around Ruby on Rails.

Hiring developers—Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails

How convenient is it to hire Node.js developers?

The large community of Node.js developers makes it easier to hire Node.js developers. The average range for hiring Node.js developers as dedicated or freelancing resources varies between $70 to $90 per hour in North America, $50 to $70 per hour in Eastern Europe. In Asian countries like India, it is from $20 to $40 per hour. With a few considerations in mind, such as the portfolio and fundamentals of Javascript, one should be able to hire the right Node.js developers for their projects.

How convenient is it to hire Ruby on Rails developers?

A large Rails community also means you get to tap into a rich talent pool to hire Ruby on Rails developers. The average hourly rate of Rails’ developers is $36, but it is subjective. It can shoot up or down depending on the scope of the project and the experience under a developer’s belt. It might not be a walk in the park to find a talented Rails developer, but you can surely find one at the right place or onboard the right tech partner.

Hiring remote nodejs developers

Conclusion

No doubt Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails is a difficult debate to conclude. It is why we stuck with the use cases right from the beginning. So let’s reiterate what these two frameworks are most relevant for.

Choose Node.js if:

  • You want to build a web application to stream content.
  • You want to build a performant single-page application.
  • You want to build web applications enriched with efficient data processing capabilities.
  • You wish to create a real-time multi-user web application.
  • You want to create browser-based game applications.

Choose Ruby on Rails if:

  • You want to build an ecommerce platform with multiple sophisticated options.
  • You want to readily build and deploy MVP at a cost-effective price.
  • You want to build social networking platforms that can support heavy traffic.
  • You want to build a SaaS platform with a whole lot of APIs and automations.
  • You want to build informational platforms that can store, manage, and deliver tons of information to the visitors.
  • You want to build a stock exchange platform that can process large amounts of fluctuating data with ease.

Whether it is Node.js or Ruby on Rails, we are here to help you build scalable web application.

Hiren is VP of Technology at Simform with an extensive experience in helping enterprises and startups streamline their business performance through data-driven innovation.

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