What is Node.js? What are the Best Projects for Node.js?

Node.js is beating all odds to become the most popular platform for developing server-level applications in recent times. Just so you missed the cue, we referred to Node.js as a platform and not a language, tool, or framework. So what exactly is Node.js? What is the reason behind its increasing popularity?


What is Node.js?

Contrary to the common perception that Node.js is a server-side programming language or a framework, it is essentially a runtime environment that is used to build server-side applications quickly and efficiently. Very similar to the Java runtime environment (JRE), Node.js is a runtime environment for JavaScript-based applications. Just as JRE has JVM for cross-platform functionality, the JavaScript Virtual Machine (JsVM) generates machine code for JavaScript-based applications for code deployment across platforms.

As JVM has Java libraries, Node.js also has a set of libraries called Node API or Node modules in the Node Package Manager (NPM) to help run JavaScript-based applications during the runtime.

Parallelly we can say that NodeJS is a V8 engine, an open-source, JavaScript engine from Google. This means that like JRE, this V8 JsVM also has JIT and GC as its main components for handling runtime compilations and memory management.

Node.js web application architecture


The web architecture using Node.js is once again similar to that of Java-based application architecture. However, the only difference that arises is in regards to client request processing which is asynchronous single-thread handling in the case of Node.js. With a Java-based application, the client requests are handled synchronously, in a multi-threaded manner.

As mentioned in the earlier sections, many libraries called Node modules are available for developing Node.js-based web applications, however, typically all the frameworks/libraries used in tandem with Node.js are all JavaScript-based as well.

When we look at the web architecture in the picture below, we can observe that the client-side is developed using Angular JS, Express JS is used for presentation and service layers, and for the backend, MongoDB is used. This is an ideal architecture of MongoDB, Express JS, Angular JS, Node.js (MEAN) stack.

Features of Node.js

Node.js is taking popular programming languages like PHP and Java head-on in the backend web application development space due to many reasons. Mentioned below are the various reasons:


Node Package Manager (NPM) :

Node.js has an NPM that has over 50,000 packages. That means any functionality the developer might think of, can be directly imported from NPM.

Asynchronous, single-threaded:

All the Node APIs are asynchronous and single-threaded, meaning, they are non-blocking. The server moves on to the next API with Node.js’ event mechanism in place that helps in getting a notification back to the server about the previous API call.

Scalable:

The non-blocking mechanism in Node.js makes the server requests scalable as opposed to the traditional servers that handle limited threads for requests.



Very quick and efficient:

Being a V8 JavaScript engine sourced by Google, the Node.js platform is very quick in code execution.

No buffering:

Node.js applications never buffer for data. They output the data in chunks. No wonder, Node.js is highly adopted for building video streaming websites.

Licensed:

MIT holds the Node.js license.

Where to use Node.js?


Node.js is arguably the top platform used today for server side programming using JavaScript. Therefore, the reasons to use Node.js are:

  • Node.js is a JavaScript-based platform and runs JavaScript code on it. And JavaScript is a versatile scripting language that can be used for both server and client-side application development.

  • Since it is fast, especially when handling multiple server requests at the same time, Node.js is ideal for building real-time applications, online games, chat rooms, etc.

  • The NPM as mentioned has all client, server-side, and command-line tools and modules for web application development under one roof. Most of these modules are hosted on Github and any issues found are easily patched within a day.

  • Node.js today is a default runtime environment for JavaScript and JavaScript-based tools, or other web tools like beautifiers, task runners, preprocessors, and analytics processors.

  • Any applications that need an agile development model and rapid product iteration can use Node.js.


Where not to use Node.js


NodeJS is not recommended for CPU-intensive applications.

The drawbacks


  • Despite many packages in Node.js NPM, it is still raw and new modules are constantly being added for a better user experience.

  • Due to the availability of various method options in the NPM, the developers can choose differently to attain the same functionality. Hence, each project module can be different from the others. This makes it difficult for any new programmer to understand the project especially if they jump-in in the middle.

  • Even the simplest task such as reading one record at a time in a CSV file that can be handled easily in other programming languages is not a trivial matter in Node.js. Ordinary things sometimes seem complicated using Node.js.

Who uses Node.js?

Node.js is currently a powerful JavaScript-based runtime environment used extensively to develop chat applications, video streaming websites, IoT applications, social media applications backend, etc. A few of its use cases are


Netflix :

The world leader in providing online entertainment with around 200 million users has trusted Node.js for their servers. Their top reasons for choosing Node.js were:
a) Application scalability
b) Data-intensive applications

Walmart :

World’s largest retailers chose Node.js for its
a) Asynchronous I/O
b) Efficient handling of concurrent requests.

Uber :

A US-based hire-to-ride company chose Node.js over other options for its
a) Asynchronous I/O
b) Faster iterations
c) Huge community support and stability.



PayPal :

One of the most trusted payment gateways chose Node.js for its
a) Ability to handle large amounts of data
b) Faster build times.

Medium :

One of the popular online publishing platforms opted for Node.js for its
a) Simple server maintenance
b) Data-driven applications
c) Ability to run A/B tests.

NASA :

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the USA also uses Node.js for the following reasons:
a) For better and quicker access to data.
b) Latest technology implementations from legacy systems

To Conclude…

Now that the industry trends are quite evident from the above examples, why do you want to choose Node.js for your web application development? Still unclear? Approach us to get a complete understating of why Node.js could be a right fit for your organization.















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