5 min read22-10-2020

Full-stack JavaScript - Node.js

CodeNode.jsDevelopment

From client-side to server-side

Nowadays, almost everyone is somewhat familiar with JavaScript. JavaScript has been the most popular programming language for years and was often used as a client-side development tool. This amounted up to 95 percent of websites worldwide. Although, what about the newer server-side programming?

With the introduction of Node.js, JavaScript has become an all-purpose, full-stack, development language. So, let's discuss what Node.js is, and explore its advantages and disadvantages. Node.js is an open-source runtime environment created as an extension for/of JavaScript. It is based on Chrome V8, which is an engine for the chrome browser. Node.JS allows your programs - written in JavaScript - to be executed on a server. This environment was first used in 2009 to create dynamic web pages before they were sent to a browser. Soon after this, it became one of the most used languages for backend development.

MEAN & MERN

As most programmers probably now, Node.js is part of the highly popular MEAN and MERN stacks. These are JavaScript centered technology stacks which cover the entire web development pipeline. There are many frameworks built for Node.js (470,000), including popular ones like Express JS, Meteor, and Sails. In order to source modules and ready-made packages, a developer can use NPM - an extensive package base that helps build with MEAN and MERN stacks – creating multiple reasons to code in Node.js. This also helped Node.js become the standard for large companies like Netflix, Uber, and eBay. To determine whether Node.JS fits you and your company's needs, you first need to understand the biggest pros and cons. First, the pros will be elaborated on.

Pros

  1. Node.js has opened the doors to JavaScript full-stack development - inheriting the merits of JavaScript programming - as well as allowing engineers to use its libraries and features Lightweight.
  2. Javascript achieves high performance with fewer lines of code when compared to Java or C. Furthermore, the frontend and backend are easier to keep in sync. This is because one single language is used on both sides of the application.
  3. reusing and sharing code is possible and very simple yet effective. This is with the help of Node.js modules, which are basically independent chunks of code. Developers can use prebuilt modules or reuse their own Node.js modules.
  4. It is highly scalable, and lightweight (fewer lines of code). Making it the favorite for almost every microservice architecture. Microservice architecture means, breaking down the application into isolated and independent services or simply building a modular code.
  5. Constant improvements in the engine, as Google continues to invest heavily in it.
  6. The event-based nature makes Node.js highly efficient for real-time apps that require constant data updates. The non-blocking input-output model solves performance issues. The performance is enhanced by concurrent request processing, which uses a single thread event loop. Furthermore, the non-blocking Input-output model allows for processing several requests at a time. This makes Node.JS highly efficient for processing multiple requests with less CPU, thus increasing speed.
  7. A rapidly growing community ensures that there is always a pathway to the solutions of your specific problem(s). Few programming languages have such a rich packaged ecosystem as Node.JS. Thousands of libraries and tools for JavaScript development are gathered on NPM (a default Node.JS package manager and marketplace).

Now that the most significant pros for coding in Node.js are clarified, the drawbacks should be conceptualized. This helps to really understand the choice to (or not to) code in Node.js.

Cons

  1. Node.JS uses a non-blocking input-output model for processing requests. It is considered single-threaded by nature. Node.js is capable of processing several simple tasks, for instance, read database queries without blocking the main thread. Whenever there is a heavy-computation request, Node.js would set up a block on other requests on the thread causing an overall delay. This is considered as a major drawback of Node.js.

    However, a solution is on its way. The latest updates threading was introduced as an experimental feature designed to process heavy computations using a worker thread. Module developers are now able to spawn additional threads for parallel processing to carry requests that block the event loop. Considering this, Node.js may become suitable for processing CPU-bound tasks and machine learning-based calculations.

  2. NPM registry seems to be quantity - not quality – driven. This contradicts the core products, which are proven to be stable and well-tested. Furthermore, the NPM registry is poorly structured and badly documented. Of course, that is not uncommon for any open source project.
  3. The last drawback worth mentioning is the lack of experienced JavaScript developers able to work with backends. The major market statistics show that a typical Node.js developer has two years’ experience, which averages half of their career.

Wrapping it up

Node.js is a powerful and lightweight tool used for full stack (web) development. Most likely, you would use it when building microservice architectures, or even cross-platform desktop programs with a framework. As with any tool, it has weaknesses like performance bottlenecks for CPU heavy operations. Although the project is strongly supported by the community, enterprise giants are investing in its development, and Node.js is growing and developing fast.

Thus, while choosing a backend tool and comparing options, such as Python-based – Django, PHP - Symfony, or Ruby on Rails, Node.js should be at the top of that list together with Python.


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