If you want to build a custom software solution, your first and foremost task is to find the right back-end technology. The wrong choice will result in poor functionality, low loading speed, and a lack of scalability of your solution. Given that, you need to choose the server-side technology wisely.
Despite being a relatively new technology, Node.js has managed to gain immense popularity. Its versatility makes it suitable for both front-end and back-end development. However, in this blog post, we will focus on its benefits for building the server-side of software products.
Thus, we will define what Node.js is, how it works, and how it differs from other web technologies. Furthermore, we will explore its main implementation areas and the most successful use cases of Node.js backend development.
Finally, we will discuss the main pros and cons of Node.js for back-end development.
What is the back-end?
We use the term “back-end” to refer to the software parts responsible for storing and analyzing the data and ensuring seamless application performance. These parts are invisible to the users. In this aspect, the back-end is utterly different from the front-end, which deals with all elements that users can see and interact with on a web page.
The main components of the back-end are software, the internet server, and the database. The server receives a request from users. The software retrieves the specific information from the database per request and sends the response. Finally, the database keeps this information organized.
The back-end communicates with the front-end or client-side by sending and receiving information that will be displayed to users in the form of a web page.
Node.js: everything you need to know
Our expert team prepared a comprehensive overview of this technology to help you understand better what Node.js is when to use it, and how your software solution can benefit from its implementation.
Node.js offers developers enough flexibility to build real-time network apps as an open-source platform.
Ryan Dahl, a software developer from Google, created the Node.js platform for macOS and Linux in 2009 as an alternative to the Apache HTTP server. He noticed the limitations of this popular web server when handling multiple concurrent connections (10,000 and more). Dahl also criticized the common coding method called sequential programming.
Ryan Dahl handled the development and maintenance till 2012. After that, the Node.Js project was managed by Isaac Schlueter, the creator of the NPM project manager.
The most popular Node.js frameworks
- Express.js is a Node.js web app development framework commonly used for building APIs. It shows high performance and allows developers to build applications with maximum testability owing to super-high test coverage.
- Nest.js – this powerful Node.js framework helps build scalable and dynamic enterprise software solutions. It is known for its extensive libraries, smooth learning curve, and high compatibility with Angular for the client-side.
- Meteor.js – this Node.js framework offers packages and libraries containing many reusable components that streamline the development process. For this reason, it is a great option for building MVPs and prototyping.
- Hapi.js is a framework with a primary focus on safety. It provides developers with secure HTTPS, advanced cookie functionality, and authorization settings. It has a collection of plugins though it is significantly smaller compared to Nest.js or Express.js.
- LoopBack.js is an open-source framework that connects Node.js to the HTML5, iOS, and Android APIs with the help of ready-made modules. Its main benefits are organized code, extensive built-in functionality, and accessible official support.
So what is Node.js good for? Basically, it is the most suitable option for building the following types of software products.
Real-time collaboration tools
These software products used in project management include file-sharing systems, cloud storage, video conferencing software, document synchronization, whiteboards, and instant messaging programs.
The distinctive feature of such apps lies in a great number of concurrent I/O requests and events. To simplify, multiple users can update the status of their tasks, leave comments, and attach files.
Owing to WebSockets and Event API, Node.js can handle complex I/O operations successfully. For this reason, developers often choose this technology to build real-time collaboration tools such as Trello.
Wikipedia defines single-page applications as web solutions interacting with users by rewriting the current web page with new data instead of loading new web pages.
The first reason to use Node.js for building such apps is the efficient handling of asynchronous calls and complex I/O operations.
Apart from that, Node.js is a good option for developing data-driven SPAs where the server transmits the data to the client and the client-side handles HTML rendering.
Nowadays, we can see real-time chats practically everywhere. Furthermore, they have become an absolute must for e-commerce websites and digital products.
Node.js Event API allows developers to implement push notifications and server-side events.
Moreover, the advanced Node.js technology called WebSocket enables two-way exchange via an open connection, which makes Node.js a perfect choice for building real-time chat.
Streaming web application
Microservices architecture is the web development approach when the software solution is built as a group of small independent services. Notably, each separate service plays an outstanding role in the business logic.
What makes Node.js good for developing microservices architecture? The thing is that Node.js backend technology simplifies the mounting of different server instances for separate microservices and creates the most suitable routing addresses for them.
The most successful use cases
What prominent companies use Node.js for building the back-end of their software products? You may be surprised, but there are plenty of them.
Below you can see some of the most successful use cases:
LinkedIn moved from Ruby on Rails to Node.js back in 2011. At that time, the company experienced issues processing multiple concurrent requests with Ruby. Besides, since the Ruby application worked synchronously, the pages were heavy to load.
So the decision has been made to switch to Node.js to increase the app’s performance and reduce resource usage. This switch in technology allowed moving from a synchronous system to an asynchronous one. As a result, the app’s performance was boosted, and greater scalability was achieved.
Apart from that, the monolithic design of the application made it almost impossible to scale the software when the customer base started growing rapidly.
Furthermore, the high environmental dependencies of Java negatively influenced productivity in PayPal.
The switch to Node.js in 2013 enabled Paypal pages to load 35% faster. There was also a significant decrease in response time. Besides, the Node.js application was capable of processing twice the number of requests per second.
Other big names leveraging the power of Node.js are NASA, Uber, Yahoo, Medium, Walmart, and Twitter.
The current state of Node.js
We have already mentioned that Node.js has recently gained massive popularity. Now let’s take a look at specific figures that prove this fact.
Thus, according to Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2022, Node.js is listed first among the most common web frameworks and technologies. It is used by 46% of professional developers.
Statista, following Stack Overflow, names Node.js the most used web framework among developers worldwide.
Below you can see other awesome statistics showing why Node.js for server-side is worth giving a shot.
- At least 30 million websites use this technology
- eBay uses Node.js as the primary back-end technology
- Node.js exceeded 1 billion downloads in 2018. Now, this number is closer to 1.4-1.5 billion and shows no signs of stopping.
- Node.js is the most commonly used back-end technology in the USA, used by 6.3 million websites.
Node.js vs other back-end technologies
Now let’s discuss how Node.js is different from other back-back programming languages.
Node.js vs. Java
The fact that Node.js and Java run programs within their environment gives ground to compare these two technologies. However, the similarities between these two technologies end there.
Node.js vs. Python
Both Node.js and Python are versatile technologies, as evidenced by a large number of use cases. Thus, Node.js can be used for web and mobile application development and for building cloud and IoT solutions.
Python is also a universal language, which helps build different types of desktop and web applications, but can do little for building mobile apps.
As for scalability, Node.js and Python show different results. Node.js is widely used for building scalable applications. At the same time, when it comes to Python, scalability may become an issue. As the Python system grows, it is getting too difficult to maintain.
This lack of scalability can be explained by the usage of Global Interpreter Lock, which makes multi-threading impossible.
Pros and cons of using Node.js for the back-end
Now that you know how Node.js differs from other back-end technologies, let’s discuss its strengths and weaknesses for back-end development.
The key strength of Node.js look are as follows:
Simultaneous request handing
Owing to a non-blocking I/O system, the software can handle multiple concurrent requests. All incoming requests are processed sequentially within short notice. Since the random-access memory (RAM) is not clogged, the application achieves greater scalability and improves performance.
Ability to meet customized requirements
We can extend Node.js by using the data-interchange JSON format, which simplifies the client’s and web servers’ data exchange.
Reduced loading time
The runtime Node.js environment allows caching single modules. Every time the request for the first module appears, it gets cached in the app’s memory.
Consequently, the application loads web pages much faster and provides a swift response to users.
Node.js is known as a lightweight technology. Given that the overall application development speed is significantly streamlined.
Despite the multiple benefits of Node.js that make it a great choice for web app development, this technology is not flawless.
Below you can find the most important shortcomings of Node.js.
Many Node.js users name frequent API changes a serious drawback of this technology. Moreover, these changes are often backward-incompatible. It means that developers have to make alterations in the accessible code base to achieve compatibility with the latest Node.js API version.
For many developers, the asynchronous programming model is more difficult than traditional linear I/O programming. Code becomes too clumsy, which causes the increasing dependency on nested calls.
We hope that this comprehensive overview of Node.js gave you a better understanding of this technology and its benefits for building the server side of software solutions. Armed with the most advanced Node.js tools, you will be able to develop scalable and high-performing apps.
If you need further assistance with web development with Node js, do not hesitate and contact us. Our experienced back-end development team will eagerly help you to get the most out of this technology.
Node.js is a versatile technology that can build both the back-end and the front-end sides of software solutions. Owing to its ability to handle complex I/O operations, Node.js is commonly used to build real-time collaboration tools, single-page applications, streaming web apps, microservices architecture, and real-time chats.
Node.js is mistakenly considered the back-end technology that allows developers to build servers. However, in reality, its event-driven, non-blocking nature and multiple reusable components make the Node.js technology a good choice for both the back-end and the front-end development.
The solution to the Node.js vs. Python dilemma depends on the specific type of software you want to create. Node.js is a good option for data-intensive projects that do not require too much code. At the same time, if you want to build complex applications with lots of integrations, Python is a preferred option. Besides, you should know that Python is not good for scalable projects. In this regard, Node.js gets the upper hand. Finally, unlike Node.js, Python does not work well for mobile application development.