Why your Company Should be Using Node.js

Expanding the Flexibility of JavaScript

According to Stack Overflow, 58.3% of developers use JavaScript. And, according to GitHub, JavaScript is the third most popular language in use today. There’s a reason for that. JavaScript is an object-oriented programming language used primarily for web-based interfaces. 

What JavaScript does for websites is crucial. In fact, any time a website does more than just present static information, chances are that JavaScript is involved. It’s that prevalent. And for the longest time, JavaScript did just that—enhanced websites with things like pop-ups, hoverable buttons, and instant search results. 

But as with anything in the realm of technology, that wasn’t enough, especially with a language as flexible as JavaScript. So on May 27, 2009, Ryan Dahl released an asynchronous, event-driven JavaScript runtime environment, named Node.js.


Node.js Developers Hiring Guide

  • How to choose the best
  • Interview questions
  • Job Description

What is Node.js?

Technically speaking, Node.js is a server-side platform, built on Google Chrome’s V8 Engine for building fast and scalable network applications. Node.js uses a non-blocking I/O model which makes the platform ideal for data-intensive applications that run across distributed devices.

As you might expect, Node.js applications are written in JavaScript and are capable of running on any platform that supports the runtime (which means Linux, macOS, and Windows). 

The list of companies that use Node.js should open your eyes as to what this runtime engine is capable of. The list includes the likes of:

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    General Electric
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But why should your company be using Node.js? Let’s take a look at a few reasons.

What does Node.js do?

This is a simple, but important question. Where JavaScript can greatly enhance the feature set and design of a website, Node.js allows you to take JavaScript and create actual applications with it. So instead of just adding fancy buttons, pop-ups, and interactive bits to a website, you can create applications and features that can serve thousands of users simultaneously, without bogging down your server.

This is made possible by the Event Loop, which is (basically speaking) a program that waits for events and then dispatches them once they’ve occurred. Because Node.js uses event-driven programming, it results in very fast applications.

Event-driven applications work with a loop that listens for events and then triggers a callback function when an event is detected. In fact, everything that happens in Node is a reaction to an event. With event-driven programming, the amount of resources used is considerably less than traditional development, so you can get more (data processing) from less (server hardware).

What’s really important for you to understand is that Node.js allows the execution of JavaScript code outside of the web browser. This execution can happen on a server or on a desktop client. This makes Node.js pretty flexible.

Common uses for Node.js include:

  • Package management (using npm, bower, or jspm).
  • Module management with webpack (which takes modules with dependencies and emits static assets representing those modules).
  • Task running and automation.
  • Creating back-end applications.
  • Creating and using command-line tools.
  • Building desktop applications.
  • Building neural networks and chatbots.
  • Applications that stream data
  • Data-intensive, real-time applications.
  • Applications based on JSON APIs
  • Single-page applications.

The important features of Node.js

There are a number of important Node.js features, all of which would benefit your business.

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    Node.js is asynchronous
    Node.js applications don’t have to wait for an API to return data. As soon as a server makes a call, it moves on to the next API. This makes for exceptionally efficient applications and services.
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    Node.js is very fast
    On top of being event-driven and asynchronous, Node.js is built on Google Chrome’s V8 JavaScript Engine, which means it’s already optimized to run very efficiently.
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    Node.js is highly scalable
    Don’t let the fact that Node.js is single-threaded fool you. Because of the way Node.js makes use of event looping, the server can respond in a non-blocking manner, which makes it well adept at scaling. A single Node.js thread can respond to a larger number of requests than a traditional server.
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    Node.js doesn't buffer data
    Instead of relying on buffering (which most traditional server applications use), Node.js applications output data in chunks to avoid the dreaded buffering.
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    Node.js apps are low-latency
    Not only do Node.js apps enjoy low-latency (delay), but they deliver very high throughput (the amount of data passing through a system or process).

Popular tools used with Node.js

You won’t be using Node.js alone. There are a number of frameworks you should become familiar with before you dive too deep into Node.js. The list of frameworks includes:

  • Express.js is a web application framework that includes a nice list of features for creating mobile and web applications.
  • Socket.io provides real-time analytics along with counters, logs, and charts.
  • Keystone is an open-source, full-stack framework that uses MongoDB for creating database-driven websites, applications, and APIs.
  • PM2 is a process manager for Node.js applications and includes features like behavior configuration, source map support, container integration, log management, cluster mode, and development and deployment workflows.
  • Babel is a toolchain to transform ECMAScript 2015+ into backward compatible JavaScript.

    Drawbacks to consider with Node.js

    Node.js is an outstanding tool for most businesses. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect. There are a few drawbacks to consider when adopting this technology.

    For example, Node.js isn’t a good option when you’re dealing with CPU-intensive tasks and long-running calculations. Because of incoming request blockage by large computations, you’d experience a significant loss in performance with Node.js.

    Another drawback of Node.js is a lack of consistency. The Node.js APIs change frequently, and those changes aren’t always backward compatible.

    You will also have to write everything from scratch. Because of this, your productivity could take a hit—especially if you’re new to the language. 

    Finally, not all of the tools are mature and have been poorly documented. Because much of the Node.js ecosystem is open source, a lot of the documentation can wind up out of date or poorly written.

      The Bottom Line

      As long as websites need applications and real-time data, JavaScript and Node.js will continue to remain at the top of the programming language popularity chart. If your business needs to expand the offering on your website, you would be remiss to not consider adopting Node.js to create effective applications.

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