What is Node.js? Where, when and how to use it with examples

Web App Development
where when and how to use node.js

What is Node.js? Where, when and how to use it with examples

Did you know Node JS is the primary backend language for eBay and AliExpress too? In 2018 there were 23 million developers in the world, and we are still counting. Let’s dive in and understand more about how Node.js is worth your time, resources, and investment in your upcoming project. We have covered a few compelling use cases to explain various applications of Node.js. Make well-informed decisions for a future project.

What is Node.js?

Node.js is an open-source, Javascript runtime environment on Chrome’s V8 that lets you effortlessly develop fast and scalable web applications. It utilizes an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it lightweight, efficient and excellent for data-intensive real-time applications that run across shared devices.

How does Node.js work?

node.js architecture

Node.js is an epitome of an exceptionally customizable and scalable tech. The server engine utilizes an event-based, non-blocking I/O model. This makes the adaptation of Javascript easier to the machine language providing execution of the code super fast. Thanks to Javascript and Node.js, the code operates faster in server-to-client direction. This enhances the performance ability of the web applications to the next level. To be more precise, web application development in Node.js ensures a steady and secure non-blocking I/O model, simplifying the code beautifully.

Node.js runs over Google’s  V8 Javascript engine, where web applications are event-based in an asynchronous manner. Node.js platform uses a “single-threaded event loop.”

So, how exactly does Node.js handle concurrent requests along with a single-threaded model?  Well! “Multi-threaded request-response” architecture is an event loop which is much slower and unable to handle multiple concurrent threads at a time. 

traditional vs node.js server thread

The platform does not follow a similar request/response multi-threaded stateless model instead it goes by a simplified single-threaded event loop model. As per Node.js developers, a specific library called “Libuv” provides this mechanism known as an event loop. This Node.js processing model is majorly based on Javascript event-based model along with the callback mechanism

Node.js Architecture

Unlike the traditional web-serving technique, where each request creates new thread cramping up the system RAM, Node.js operates on a single thread. This enables it to support thousands of concurrent connection handling event loops.

NPM: Node Package Manager

While we are trying to understand the basics of Node.js, we definitely don’t want to miss out on its built-in support for package management using npm. A popular package library – npm is the most prized possession of Node.js community. It contains millions of downloadable libraries according to the specific requirement. These massive libraries are absolutely free of cost with its registry. With each passing day, these libraries are getting bigger rapidly, making the Node.js community stronger.

npm is indeed the world’s largest software registry. Yes, that’s right!

Open-source developers from every continent use npm to share or borrow packages, and many enterprises utilize them for their private developments too. Find the entire list of packaged modules on npm website

The latest Node’s version 11.0 has some remarkable features.

You ready?

Node.js 11.0 uses native Node, making it even more stable. More error codes and interval time has enhanced better performance and improvised diagnosis. This has made the geeky life of the developers more delightful by deploying extraordinary experiences for users.

Top Useful npm Modules

The minimalist approach inspires some of the most useful npm modules today.

# NPM: Express.js                            # NPM: Sails.js
# NPM: Meteor.js                             # NPM: Hapi.js
# NPM: Koa.js                                   # NPM: Total.js
# NPM:Nest.js                                   # NPM: Loopback.js
# NPM:Mongo.js                              # NPM: socket.js

These useful npm nodules help you create a module that allows focusing on many essential elements such as high performance, automate time-consuming tasks, robust routing, and super-high test coverage.

What is Node.js Used for?

Beat your competition with Node.js based business solutions. Let me fire some quickies for you:

  • Backend for Social Media Networking
  • Single-page Application
  • Chat Application
  • Data Streaming
  • IoT Application

So let’s just jump into the best use cases used by many industries & get a more reliable idea of Node’s positioning.

Backend for Social Media Networking

Many renowned names such as LinkedIn and Medium are rebuilt on Node.js. There is an essential combination of nodes to build a backend for a social media networking site. Node.js provides blazing-fast routing with its V8 engine along with a secure authentication. Scalability is one of the most significant factors which enriches a social media network.

Single-page Application (SPA) Development

Just like single page websites, Node.js can build a single-page app, where the look and feel are similar to a desktop application. Due to its versatile options, Node.js is a good fit for building social networking platforms, dynamic websites, and mailing solutions. What’s more, the asynchronous data flow quality on the backend in Node.js makes it the best bet for SPA development.

Chatbots

Node.js offers exclusive advanced functionalities for real-time chatbots and chat applications. The key features such as multi-user applications, intensive data, heavy traffic, across all devices are very popular in chatbots. Node.js hits the sweet spot, for it runs across different devices and covers all paradigms in chat and chatbot apps. Node.js makes it super easy to execute push notifications and server-side event loops popularly used in IMs and real-time apps.

Data Streaming

Giants like Netflix welcomed Node.js to serve 190 countries and 100+ million hours of streaming across 120 million users and counting. Node.js has a definite edge on this as the processing files at a super-fast speed, and feather-light encodes and uploads. This has been encashed upon by many online fashion e-stores and applications with massive data streaming videos.

IoT Application Development

IoT has drastically become popular over the recent decade and ever since then Node.js is one of the most preferred solutions for organizations looking to build public and private IoT solution systems. The very core advantage of Node.js is its brilliant ability to process seamlessly concurrent requests with thousands of events released by billions of devices on its network.Thanks to Node.js event-driven server architecture and asynchronous processing relevant heavy I/O operations on IoT networks. Furthermore, Node.js operates on writable and readable channels and streams, which is why it is the most suitable platform for IoT app development.

Understanding the popularity of Node.js

Over the years, Node.js has gained quite a popularity for multiple reasons. It is one leading technology that has attracted a diverse range of businesses. Among the companies that have implemented Node.js are Amazon, eBay, Reddit, Netflix, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and PayPal. While Yunong Xiao, Principal Engineer, Netflix reported that a substantial decrease in their startup time led to its selection, Amazon stated that Node.js was chosen for its futuristic features.

node.js stats

It is pretty evident – Node.js is a big deal in the tech community. These stats reflect such magnanimous appreciation for what this technology has to offer. Both companies and programmers keep falling in love with it over and over due to their super cool and super supportive community.

Some popular Node.js Case Studies

The one thing that’s common between Netflix, LinkedIn, and Uber is: all of them had a robust tech team to make critical and crucial analysis before they made the switch to Node.js. So let’s understand this more closely:

Netflix:
With over 130 million subscribers and one billion hours of weekly data streaming, Netflix was looking for a scalable solution that could enable it to handle multiple requests simultaneously.

Enters Node.js! The team chose the technology so they could use the same language in the backend and frontend. They also built an SPA that significantly decreased its start-up time. This resulted in an overall reduction of the start-up time– from 40 min to under 60 seconds.

LinkedIn:
Back in 2016, LinkedIn had around 63 million members out of which 59% interacted with their mobile app. To handle the increase in users, LinkedIn picked Node.js that enabled it to boost their performance by 20x times in some cases. What’s more, they were able to reduce servers from 30 to 3, lower memory overhead, and draw their focus on application development instead of troubleshooting.

Uber:

Uber is one of those first 3 companies who dived into Node.js in the full production stage. It required a high-speed and scalable application, but at the same time a cross-platform tech solution that could manage a colossal amount of requests. They needed a tech solution that could match multiple riders to their drivers in fractions of seconds.

The undisputed leader of the industry found it right to pick Node.js to get the job done right. Node.js has become the most preferred tech for web application development or switching from current tech to Node.js.

Where Node.js shouldn’t be used

Take a quick step back and give it some thought. While analyzing the right technology to get the job done, you might come across many other tech options. Although every tech has its benefits and pitfalls, the question boils down to only one major factor: If you are building any of the following applications, you may want to reconsider your decision.

Server-side Web Application with a Relational Database on Backend

With Node.js – express.js, you can also create a vanilla web application on the server-side. In case these web applications have any heavy CPU intensive computation it will block Node.js responsiveness. Since the Relational DB tool by Node.js is still underdeveloped,, it’ll be wise to pick up other environments to perform relational operations.

Heavy Server-side Processing

For heavy server-side computation, Node.js is probably not the best choice. Due to its event-driven model and non-blocking I/O node model. It blocks incoming requests while those threads are busy working on computing numbers.

CPU Intensive Computations

The node beauty of the minimalistic approach has reflected quite well and has set several performance records. Since Node.js is single-threaded, chances are it might not work for your web applications. In case you have a heavy computation which server is responsible for processing, it gets blocked invariably.

Imperfection in Tools

Node.js has proven to be remarkable in many instances and use cases. Nevertheless, despite having the privilege of an extremely talented Node community contributing to npm modules and libraries, many have reported buggy, poor quality with incomplete modules, and lack of documentation. However, if you have expert Node.js developers, you can be sure to pick the right npm modules and libraries for your project.

Why consider Node.js at all? What makes it special?

advantages of node.js

Scalability:
Node.js applications are easily scalable, vertically and horizontal. While vertical scaling lets you add more resources to the current nodes, horizontal scaling enables you to add new nodes quicker. Furthermore, Node.js applications do not require a large block in the entire development process, for it works along with a set of microservices and modules. It’s as simple, easy, and fits perfectly for startups that are looking to grow.

High Performance:
Node.js runs on Google V8 JS engine that complies with Javascript code directly into the machine code. This makes it resource efficient as well as accelerates the framework’s speed. In fact, Google themselves invest heavily in their search engine to consistently improve their performance.

Large Community Support:
Established in 2015, Node.js Foundation is an impressive group of founders from leading enterprises such as IBM, Microsoft, Fidelity, and SAP. An enormous number of software developers and many active Node.js fans are constantly contributing to the ever-evolving and nurturing Node.js community to support the fellow developers. Additionally, Node.js is supported on Github which makes it super easy and fast to develop and support the framework.

Boosts Development Speed:
Node.js allows you developers to accelerate the web app development process with its lightweight and varied tools. The npm registry offers numerous solutions, modules, and libraries to create web apps by acquiring more value and investing in a lesser effort. Node.js, along with npm libraries, helps you reduce bugs and decrease the size of your web application with its reusable templates. This optimization directly influences the time to market.

Freedom to Develop Apps:
Developers working with Node.js get the freedom to develop cross-platform apps. With frameworks like Electron and NW.js, you can create cross-platform web apps with Node.js since it’s compatible with desktop, mobile, and web development for Mac, Windows, and Linux. Node.js is now widely the chosen one for IoT solutions as well. So if you are looking to enhance your team’s coding efficiency and performance, Node.js is your best bet.

Single Programming Language:
Node.js offers a cocktail of similar languages on front-end and back-end Javascript. It is actually more accessible and flexible than it sounds. It makes the entire web app development cycle robust and seamless for developers and enterprises. It saves time, energy, and resources man-hours investment more productive and profitable. Not only does Node.js make web app development convenient, but it also makes it the most preferred tech in the market today.

Contribution to Fullstack & MEANstack:
Node.js has proven its potential and is a part of a robust tech stack with Javascript being the undisputed leader amongst leading programming languages. Node.js, as a stand-alone, brings many benefits to the tech stack; for instance, it offers the JSON module library. With more than 368,985,988 downloads i.e an average of 1,010,921 per day, Node.js has become a significant player in many tech ecosystems.

Rich Ecosystem:
When it comes to the simplicity and richness of Node.js, npm is the only word that comes to your mind. Did you know? npm has 836,000 libraries, and 10,000 or more are published every week. Yes! over 475,000 packages and registries are available and 11,000 new tools weekly. It is reducing a great deal of time and cost involved in the development and time-to-market.

Did you know that Node.js is used regularly by 98% of Fortune 500 companies, according to the Node.js Foundation? Reasons? Lightweight, fast, and scalable. Node.js is also performant and efficient in handling multiple requests at the same time. It’s more time and cost efficient than other tech stacks to handle the traffic of your application.

The list can go on and on…

This technology is both an effective solution for startups to speed up and simplify development, and a sophisticated ecosystem utilized by leading enterprises.

Want to see Node.js in action? Get in touch with our Node.js experts and design a high performing, scalable web application. Sign-up for many more interesting upcoming reads.

node.js vs react

Tejas is a Senior Tech Consultant at Simform excelling in mobile and server-side technologies, with extensive experience in working closely with startups and enterprises. His expertise in understanding tech has helped businesses achieve excellence over the long run.

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