javascript - world - How to decide when to use Node.js?




node.js express sample application (12)

I am new to this kind of stuff, but lately I've been hearing a lot about how good Node.js is. Considering how much I love working with jQuery and JavaScript in general, I can't help but wonder how to decide when to use Node.js. The web application I have in mind is something like Bitly - takes some content, archives it.

From all the homework I have been doing in the last few days, I obtained the following information. Node.js

  • is a command-line tool that can be run as a regular web server and lets one run JavaScript programs
  • utilizes the great V8 JavaScript engine
  • is very good when you need to do several things at the same time
  • is event-based so all the wonderful Ajax-like stuff can be done on the server side
  • lets us share code between the browser and the backend
  • lets us talk with MySQL

Some of the sources that I have come across are:

Considering that Node.js can be run almost out-of-the-box on Amazon's EC2 instances, I am trying to understand what type of problems require Node.js as opposed to any of the mighty kings out there like PHP, Python and Ruby. I understand that it really depends on the expertise one has on a language, but my question falls more into the general category of: When to use a particular framework and what type of problems is it particularly suited for?


  1. Node is great for quick prototypes but I'd never use it again for anything complex. I spent 20 years developing a relationship with a compiler and I sure miss it.

  2. Node is especially painful for maintaining code that you haven't visited for awhile. Type info and compile time error detection are GOOD THINGS. Why throw all that out? For what? And dang, when something does go south the stack traces quite often completely useless.


Node best for concurrent request handling -

So, Let’s start with a story. From last 2 years I am working on JavaScript and developing web front end and I am enjoying it. Back end guys provide’s us some API’s written in Java,python (we don’t care) and we simply write a AJAX call, get our data and guess what ! we are done. But in real it is not that easy, If data we are getting is not correct or there is some server error then we stuck and we have to contact our back end guys over the mail or chat(sometimes on whatsApp too :).) This is not cool. What if we wrote our API’s in JavaScript and call those API’s from our front end ? Yes that’s pretty cool because if we face any problem in API we can look into it. Guess what ! you can do this now , How ? – Node is there for you.

Ok agreed that you can write your API in JavaScript but what if I am ok with above problem. Do you have any other reason to use node for rest API ?

so here is the magic begins. Yes I do have other reasons to use node for our API’s.

Let’s go back to our traditional rest API system which is based on either blocking operation or threading. Suppose two concurrent request occurs( r1 and r2) , each of them require database operation. So In traditional system what will happens :

1. Waiting Way : Our server starts serving r1 request and waits for query response. after completion of r1 , server starts to serve r2 and does it in same way. So waiting is not a good idea because we don’t have that much time.

2. Threading Way : Our server will creates two threads for both requests r1 and r2 and serve their purpose after querying database so cool its fast.But it is memory consuming because you can see we started two threads also problem increases when both request is querying same data then you have to deal with deadlock kind of issues . So its better than waiting way but still issues are there.

Now here is , how node will do it:

3. Nodeway : When same concurrent request comes in node then it will register an event with its callback and move ahead it will not wait for query response for a particular request.So when r1 request comes then node’s event loop (yes there is an event loop in node which serves this purpose.) register an event with its callback function and move ahead for serving r2 request and similarly register its event with its callback. Whenever any query finishes it triggers its corresponding event and execute its callback to completion without being interrupted.

So no waiting, no threading , no memory consumption – yes this is nodeway for serving rest API.


Another great thing that I think no one has mentioned about Node.js is the amazing community, the package management system (npm) and the amount of modules that exist that you can include by simply including them in your package.json file.


I believe Node.js is best suited for real-time applications: online games, collaboration tools, chat rooms, or anything where what one user (or robot? or sensor?) does with the application needs to be seen by other users immediately, without a page refresh.

I should also mention that Socket.IO in combination with Node.js will reduce your real-time latency even further than what is possible with long polling. Socket.IO will fall back to long polling as a worst case scenario, and instead use web sockets or even Flash if they are available.

But I should also mention that just about any situation where the code might block due to threads can be better addressed with Node.js. Or any situation where you need the application to be event-driven.

Also, Ryan Dahl said in a talk that I once attended that the Node.js benchmarks closely rival Nginx for regular old HTTP requests. So if we build with Node.js, we can serve our normal resources quite effectively, and when we need the event-driven stuff, it's ready to handle it.

Plus it's all JavaScript all the time. Lingua Franca on the whole stack.


I have one real-world example where I have used Node.js. The company where I work got one client who wanted to have a simple static HTML website. This website is for selling one item using PayPal and the client also wanted to have a counter which shows the amount of sold items. Client expected to have huge amount of visitors to this website. I decided to make the counter using Node.js and the Express.js framework.

The Node.js application was simple. Get the sold items amount from a Redis database, increase the counter when item is sold and serve the counter value to users via the API.

Some reasons why I chose to use Node.js in this case

  1. It is very lightweight and fast. There has been over 200000 visits on this website in three weeks and minimal server resources has been able to handle it all.
  2. The counter is really easy to make to be real time.
  3. Node.js was easy to configure.
  4. There are lots of modules available for free. For example, I found a Node.js module for PayPal.

In this case, Node.js was an awesome choice.


If your application mainly tethers web apis, or other io channels, give or take a user interface, node.js may be a fair pick for you, especially if you want to squeeze out the most scalability, or, if your main language in life is javascript (or javascript transpilers of sorts). If you build microservices, node.js is also okay. Node.js is also suitable for any project that is small or simple.

Its main selling point is it allows front-enders take responsibility for back-end stuff rather than the typical divide. Another justifiable selling point is if your workforce is javascript oriented to begin with.

Beyond a certain point however, you cannot scale your code without terrible hacks for forcing modularity, readability and flow control. Some people like those hacks though, especially coming from an event-driven javascript background, they seem familiar or forgivable.

In particular, when your application needs to perform synchronous flows, you start bleeding over half-baked solutions that slow you down considerably in terms of your development process. If you have computation intensive parts in your application, tread with caution picking (only) node.js. Maybe http://koajs.com/ or other novelties alleviate those originally thorny aspects, compared to when I originally used node.js or wrote this.


My one more reason to choose Node.js for a new project is:

Be able to do pure cloud based development

I have used Cloud9 IDE for a while and now I can't imagine without it, it covers all the development lifecycles. All you need is a browser and you can code anytime anywhere on any devices. You don't need to check in code in one Computer(like at home), then checkout in another computer(like at work place).

Of course, there maybe cloud based IDE for other languages or platforms (Cloud 9 IDE is adding supports for other languages as well), but using Cloud 9 to do Node.js developement is really a great experience for me.


My piece: nodejs is great for making real time systems like analytics, chat-apps, apis, ad servers, etc. Hell, I made my first chat app using nodejs and socket.io under 2 hours and that too during exam week!

Edit

Its been several years since I have started using nodejs and I have used it in making many different things including static file servers, simple analytics, chat apps and much more. This is my take on when to use nodejs

When to use

When making system which put emphasis on concurrency and speed.

  • Sockets only servers like chat apps, irc apps, etc.
  • Social networks which put emphasis on realtime resources like geolocation, video stream, audio stream, etc.
  • Handling small chunks of data really fast like an analytics webapp.
  • As exposing a REST only api.

When not to use

Its a very versatile webserver so you can use it wherever you want but probably not these places.

  • Simple blogs and static sites.
  • Just as a static file server.

Keep in mind that I am just nitpicking. For static file servers, apache is better mainly because it is widely available. The nodejs community has grown larger and more mature over the years and it is safe to say nodejs can be used just about everywhere if you have your own choice of hosting.


Reasons to use NodeJS:

  • It runs Javascript, so you can use the same language on server and client, and even share some code between them (e.g. for form validation, or to render views at either end.)

  • The single-threaded event-driven system is fast even when handling lots of requests at once, and also simple, compared to traditional multi-threaded Java or ROR frameworks.

  • The ever-growing pool of packages accessible through NPM, including client and server-side libraries/modules, as well as command-line tools for web development. Most of these are conveniently hosted on github, where sometimes you can report an issue and find it fixed within hours! It's nice to have everything under one roof, with standardized issue reporting and easy forking.

  • It has become the defacto standard environment in which to run Javascript-related tools and other web-related tools, including task runners, minifiers, beautifiers, linters, preprocessors, bundlers and analytics processors.

  • It seems quite suitable for prototyping, agile development and rapid product iteration.

Reasons not to use NodeJS:

  • It runs Javascript, which has no compile-time type checking. For large, complex safety-critical systems, or projects including collaboration between different organizations, a language which encourages contractual interfaces and provides static type checking may save you some debugging time (and explosions) in the long run. (Although the JVM is stuck with null, so please use Haskell for your nuclear reactors.)

  • Added to that, many of the packages in NPM are a little raw, and still under rapid development. Some libraries for older frameworks have undergone a decade of testing and bugfixing, and are very stable by now. Npmjs.org has no mechanism to rate packages, which has lead to a proliferation of packages doing more or less the same thing, out of which a large percentage are no longer maintained.

  • Nested callback hell. (Of course there are 20 different solutions to this...)

  • The ever-growing pool of packages can make one NodeJS project appear radically different from the next. There is a large diversity in implementations due to the huge number of options available (e.g. Express/Sails.js/Meteor/Derby). This can sometimes make it harder for a new developer to jump in on a Node project. Contrast that with a Rails developer joining an existing project: he should be able to get familiar with the app pretty quickly, because all Rails apps are encouraged to use a similar structure.

  • Dealing with files can be a bit of a pain. Things that are trivial in other languages, like reading a line from a text file, are weird enough to do with Node.js that there's a question on that with 80+ upvotes. There's no simple way to read one record at a time from a CSV file. Etc.

I love NodeJS, it is fast and wild and fun, but I am concerned it has little interest in provable-correctness. Let's hope we can eventually merge the best of both worlds. I am eager to see what will replace Node in the future... :)


The most important reasons to start your next project using Node ...

  • All the coolest dudes are into it ... so it must be fun.
  • You can hangout at the cooler and have lots of Node adventures to brag about.
  • You're a penny pincher when it comes to cloud hosting costs.
  • Been there done that with Rails
  • You hate IIS deployments
  • Your old IT job is getting rather dull and you wish you were in a shiny new Start Up.

What to expect ...

  • You'll feel safe and secure with Express without all the server bloatware you never needed.
  • Runs like a rocket and scales well.
  • You dream it. You installed it. The node package repo npmjs.org is the largest ecosystem of open source libraries in the world.
  • Your brain will get time warped in the land of nested callbacks ...
  • ... until you learn to keep your Promises.
  • Sequelize and Passport are your new API friends.
  • Debugging mostly async code will get umm ... interesting .
  • Time for all Noders to master Typescript.

Who uses it?

  • PayPal, Netflix, Walmart, LinkedIn, Groupon, Uber, GoDaddy, Dow Jones
  • Here's why they switched to Node.

To make it short:

Node.js is well suited for applications that have a lot of concurrent connections and each request only needs very few CPU cycles, because the event loop (with all the other clients) is blocked during execution of a function.

A good article about the event loop in Node.js is Mixu's tech blog: Understanding the node.js event loop.


You did a great job of summarizing what's awesome about Node.js. My feeling is that Node.js is especially suited for applications where you'd like to maintain a persistent connection from the browser back to the server. Using a technique known as "long-polling", you can write an application that sends updates to the user in real time. Doing long polling on many of the web's giants, like Ruby on Rails or Django, would create immense load on the server, because each active client eats up one server process. This situation amounts to a tarpit attack. When you use something like Node.js, the server has no need of maintaining separate threads for each open connection.

This means you can create a browser-based chat application in Node.js that takes almost no system resources to serve a great many clients. Any time you want to do this sort of long-polling, Node.js is a great option.

It's worth mentioning that Ruby and Python both have tools to do this sort of thing (eventmachine and twisted, respectively), but that Node.js does it exceptionally well, and from the ground up. JavaScript is exceptionally well situated to a callback-based concurrency model, and it excels here. Also, being able to serialize and deserialize with JSON native to both the client and the server is pretty nifty.

I look forward to reading other answers here, this is a fantastic question.

It's worth pointing out that Node.js is also great for situations in which you'll be reusing a lot of code across the client/server gap. The Meteor framework makes this really easy, and a lot of folks are suggesting this might be the future of web development. I can say from experience that it's a whole lot of fun to write code in Meteor, and a big part of this is spending less time thinking about how you're going to restructure your data, so the code that runs in the browser can easily manipulate it and pass it back.

Here's an article on Pyramid and long-polling, which turns out to be very easy to set up with a little help from gevent: TicTacToe and Long Polling with Pyramid.







web-applications