“JavaScript for everything!” – this is the motto for Node.js developers around the world. Web development with Node.js is easier because it allows using just one language for both front-end and back-end parts of an application. This technology inherits versatility and an extensive set of tools that come along with JavaScript and helps to program fast lightweight applications with less code, time, and effort. That’s why Node.js has been a leading programming platform used by various companies and one of the most loved technologies for developers since 2017.

In this article, you’ll learn what Node.js development is and what it’s used for. We will explain why Node.js is among leading tools in the technology stack of PayPal, LinkedIn, Uber, etc., and tell you how it helped NASA deal with the safety issues.

Contents:

What Is Node.js?

Node.js (or simply Node) is an open-source JavaScript runtime environment designed for creating the server-side part of web applications. Node.js has an event-based architecture that ensures fast app performance and is based on the V8 engine that compiles JS code to native machine code.

JavaScript is a single-threaded programming language, which means it executes code pieces one by one. Until one operation is fully done, the other operations are blocked for the system, which slows down the programming process. The event-driven nature of Node.js keeps the operations (in this case, events) running in a single thread but also provides non-blocking input/output to process them concurrently.

Node.js ensures interaction between JavaScript and input/output devices via its API. It also provides access to file systems and allows using various external libraries written in other programming languages.

Why Use Node.js?

For three years in a row (2017-2019), Node.js has been the most used developer tool, and it tends to keep this title in the future. According to the StackOverflow survey of 2019, the biggest rivals of Node.js among the overall list of different-purpose technologies are .NET and .NET Core frameworks produced by Microsoft. The list of technologies changes every year, but none of them has yet outranked Node.js (which rate is typically around 50%).

Diagram of most popular tools among developers

What Is Node.js Good for?

Developers use Node.js as a web server. To do so, they use the built-in HTTP module to create the Node HTTP server that provides a continuous connection with the browser. This makes it efficient for running business logic; it processes the incoming requests, directs the response to the client, validates input data, connects to databases that fetch and store data, etc.

Node.js capabilities aren’t limited to server-side JavaScript programming. For example, a specialist can install Node.js to get access to the local file system on the computer. Since developers can manipulate files (open, read, change or delete them), they also can implement utility scripts, build various tools, etc.

With Node, it’s easy to switch from traditional monolithic architecture to the microservice one, which ensures better stability and reliability of an app. It is especially efficient in building real-time applications, for instance:

  • Streaming services;
  • Real-time dashboards;
  • Chats/instant messaging apps;
  • Social media apps;
  • Multiplayer browser games;
  • IoT systems.

Node.js applications are fast, lightweight, and scalable. Yet, Node may work slowly when it comes to CPU-intensive operations and tedious computations. To fix this imperfection, more complicated computing operations are delegated to other services (micro applications) that work as a part of the big system.

6 Most Prominent Node.js Use Cases

Node is the right choice for startups, middle-sized businesses, and large companies working in various niches. Many reputable companies like eBay or Netflix use Node as a dominant technology in their stack. Other businesses choose to switch to Node.js from other server-side programming languages to increase app productivity. Among numerous Node usage experiences, we’ve highlighted six most remarkable of them to help you understand how companies improve their apps using this technology.

List of companies using Node.js

1. Payment systems: PayPal

The PayPal developers made a meaningful contribution to Node.js exploration. At the very beginning, the PayPal team was using Java to build the app. Two months after development was started, the company decided to adopt Node.js and assigned two developers from the Java team to create the same app using Node.js. Four months later, both Java and Node apps had the same functionalities considering that the Node development started later. As a result, the company proved the prevalence of Node.js over Java by speed and performance:

  • the Node application was built twice faster with fewer developers in a team;
  • the Node developers used by 33% fewer code strings;
  • the ready Node.js app contained 40% fewer files;
  • the Node app processed twice more requests per second compared to the Java app;
  • the average app response time decreased by 35%.

2. Big Data processing: NASA

During one of the spacewalks, the water separator inside the suit of an astronaut Luca Parmitano malfunctioned and filled his helmet. He was almost breathless the moment his partner saved him. After that, NASA needed to fix a major safety problem and find a way to collect data on the full lifecycle of the spacesuits.

Since it was a government project, the team had to keep time and money resources low. As a solution, the NASA software engineers used Node.js and paired it with Docker. With these technologies, they implemented a microservice architecture to move large amounts of data on spacesuits from three separate databases to the cloud database. They also reduced 28-stage data processing to 7 stages thanks to the new end-to-end system built with Node.

3. Social media: LinkedIn

LinkedIn switched from Ruby on Rails to Node.js back-end development to make its mobile version highly performant and scalable. The problem with Ruby on Rails was that it couldn’t handle a large number of micro connections typical for mobile web apps. The adoption of the Node.js server-side part reduced the number of instances on each physical machine from 15 to 4. This allowed the LinkedIn app to handle twice the bigger traffic load and keep the fast performance of the application.

4. Streaming services: Netflix

At first, Netflix was using JavaScript as a front-end technology and Java as the back-end language. The company faced a problem dealing with any changes in its system twice, which were slowing down performance and development speed. By using APIs written in Node and Docker packages, Netflix moved from monolithic to microservice architecture and decreased the app’s startup time from 40 minutes to seconds.

5. Ridesharing services: Uber

The main goal for the Uber company was to ensure the reliable unstoppable work of its application that handles multiple supply notifications and demand requests at high speeds. The database keeps data on the nearest active drivers and continuously updates as they move about the city. So, when a passenger searches for a ride, Node enables a quick matchmaking process.

6. Online shopping: eBay

The eBay team was open to experiments, so it adopted Node when the technology was young but promising. Java architecture was using too many resources than expected, so the company made a transition to Node. Now, this is one of the dominant technologies of the eBay stack. With Node, the company achieved quick and stable real-time connection with the server and enabled eBay-specific services in its first “Talk” project.

Benefits of Node.js

In 2018, the Node.js Foundation presented a comprehensive user survey on this technology and showed in numbers how it helps businesses and developers. The foundation highlights an increase in developer productivity by 68%, improved developer satisfaction by 65%, reduced costs by 58%, and better app performance by 50%.

Picture of Node.js quality metrics

However, this isn’t a full list of benefits, so we want to specify some more advantages of Node.js:

  • JavaScript! Since Node is a JavaScript-based platform, it inherits all benefits of JavaScript. Almost everything a programmer builds on the web is in JavaScript, so this language has a great number of contributors and offers a plethora of ready-made solutions for any problem. Each year there’s a new edition of ECMA Script standard coming out to specify changes in JS. When JS upgrades, its improvements are quickly implemented in Node as well.

  • Reduced development costs. Business owners spend less money on technologies because programmers use one language for both the client-side and server-side parts of an app. Node code ensures a stable client and server communication and, in some cases, allows reusing code between them. To build an app, you’ll need just one Node.js full-stack developer instead of one front-end JavaScript specialist and another one back-end developer.

  • A wide array of uses. Node.js allows developers to write utility scripts, web programs, desktop applications, synchronous cross-platform apps, IoT systems, servers, APIs, etc. It is especially efficient for creating apps that are highly responsive to user actions, including social networks, chat tools, collaborative software products, and others.

  • Fast app performance. Node.js transforms the way of executing operations in a single thread. It ensures fast app performance due to its event-driven architecture (EDA). The concepts of the event loop and non-blocking input/output allow processing thousands of simultaneous requests coming from the client-side without interruptions or delays.

  • Scalable applications. Node is a good solution for scaling apps both horizontally and vertically. It provides easy access to cloud computing services like AWS that connect to additional virtual machines to handle bigger traffic loads. Node.js helps to build a microservice architecture in which one specific block serves for one specific function. This architecture allows keeping the entire app stable in case some part of it fails or needs changes.

  • The extensive number of packages. Besides its rich standard library, Node.js offers programmers a useful Node Package Manager (NPM). The NPM is a global software registry offering around 500,000 open-source packages that allow programmers to accomplish specific programming tasks.

Conclusion

Node.js is best used in applications that require frequent interaction with the client-side. Node web servers efficiently process multiple incoming requests from the client-side and send quick responses back. Thus, the application can serve a great number of users without making them wait for long while the page is loaded. Since JavaScript is a single language running on both client and server-side of the program, it ensures stable communication between them.

Node’s event-driven architecture also allows accomplishing tasks in a single thread faster. Many use cases have shown that companies, such as NASA or Netflix, pair Node API with other technologies to handle specific tasks. An extensive set of NPM packages makes it possible for a developer to execute almost any operation. If a programmer needs to implement some new feature with Node, they will likely have all they need to do it because of the powerful JS and Node.js community.

Our team has high expertise in Node.js full-stack development and turn your idea into a highly responsive and scalable solution. In case you want to use Node.js for your application, contact us for assistance.

Contact us form