Node.js in Profile – Is It Right for You? Pros & Cons

Quick Summary - If your next development project involves providing real-time data to a huge number of simultaneous users, you’ll want to know about Node.js.

Node.js in Profile - Is It Right for You? Pros & Cons

What is Node.js?

Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform, back-end runtime environment (RTE) based on the V8 JavaScript Engine. Applications written for Node.js are written in JavaScript – the most popular and most in-demand programming language globally. Statista estimates that over half of developers are using Node.js

Most used libraries, frameworks, and tools among developers, worldwide, as of early 2020

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Source: Statista

Node.js is an excellent option for fast, scalable network applications that don’t require heavy CPU support. Though this may limit its suitability for some software, it’s arguably best-in-class for website applications and making use of real-time data (see below for strengths and weaknesses).

How Node.js is Being Used:

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Strengths and advantages of Node.js

One major advantage for using Node.js is that JavaScript is a full-stack programming language. This reduces developer requirements to a single language for server-side and client-side scripts. Most software projects have tech stacks requiring two, sometimes up to four, different programming languages for their databases, front-end and back-end.

Not much creativity went into naming this framework as the core feature of Node.js is its use of “nodes” for creating software with loosely coupled features and functions – avoiding things like spaghetti code and helping maintain low code complexity. Low code complexity makes it easier and faster for developers to read code (which they will be doing often) and to debug code that is already likely to have a relatively low defect rate. This makes it easier and less expensive to maintain.

Node.js can support a tremendous number of simultaneous users (high peak load) while maintaining a high performance and stability. Each user can run multiple tasks concurrently (like uploading/downloading multiple files) without overloading the server. Node.js is particularly useful for apps involving real-time data, but not for CPU intensive tasks.

Benefits of using Node.js:

  • Over half of Node.js developers indicate that it has helped reduce development costs, one advantage in needing to only hire JavaScript developers with Node.js experience.
  • Used by enterprises, good for startups needing MVPs, too – can focus on your “core feature” and add others based upon user data and feedback.
  • Good for real-time communication – lag-free connections between users and the server.
  • As Node.js is open-source, you don’t need a license to use it.
  • As its cross-platform, it runs on MS Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, and Android.
  • Easy and flexible to scale-up fast in adding features/functions as each has its own loosely-coupled “node” – changes in the one feature will not impact other features.
  • Remains very stable even with a massive number of simultaneous users.
  • Access an extensive library of JavaScript modules – making development easier.
  • Active user community of developers who use Node.js keen to help others.

Examples where Node.js shines

  • Apps that connect users with data from multiple databases
  • Apps with many features/functions requiring minimal CPU load
  • Social media, browser-based chat and messaging applications
  • Browser-based games
  • Tools for real-time collaboration
  • Encoding and broadcasting video and audio
  • Load balancing, data streaming and uploading/downloading multiple files
  • Node.js makes it possible to use JavaScript outside of browsers

Weaknesses and disadvantages of Node.js

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes… you get what you need.” Yeah, so, Node.js has some limitations and things it’s not at all suited for. Its core weakness is the ability to handle CPU-intensive tasks – limiting its usefulness for computing and relational databases. That covers a lot of software right off the bat, suffixe that it’s appropriate to be aware of a few more issues about Node.js:

  • Developers who know JavaScript are not automatically also Node.js developers – demand is high for both.
  • You have to be very careful when using open-source materials provided by the community – especially considering the new and increased focus on software security.
  • Callback Hell. Rather than explain it, callbackhell.com explains how you can prevent it.
  • Node.js is overkill for simple apps that can be handled with HTML or CRUD.

What other companies use Node.js?

Literally millions of websites worldwide make use of Node.js, from startups to tech giants. Some of the major names of companies you’ll easily recognize include:

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Popular Node.js frameworks

If you decide that you want your software to use JavaScript and Node.js, you also want developers experienced in using suitable frameworks. There are at a least a couple dozen Node.js frameworks that you can use, each with its particular strengths. The following are just five of the most popular Node.js frameworks so it may be necessary to dig deeper for the best fit to the software you intend to develop.

  • Express.js – Probably the most popular and used framework, it’s lightweight and adds no overhead to developers beyond already knowing JavaScript and Node.js. Express has fast I/O operations, streamlines client-to-server requests, and conducts multiple operations independently of each other. Relatively easy to code with, it facilitates high test coverage (serving to catch/reduce defects).
  • Koa.js is a competing framework that has adapted many Express plugins and libraries, but Express has the advantage for being more mature and being used by many enterprises.
  • Hapi.js – Built for code quality and security, Hapi.js was initially designed to handle the huge traffic spawned by Black Friday at Walmart. It has enhanced cookie functionality, supports secure https, and can perform a wide range of advanced functions without the need for middleware.
  • Nest.js – A framework that’s getting a lot of traction, Nest.js is developed with Typescript (a superset of JavaScript designed by Microsoft). Nest.js is probably your best option for the development of large and complex applications.
  • Meteor.js – Declining in popularity, this framework is known for providing a clear structure and enabling developers to reuse a lot of code. It can be a good choice for fast development of relatively simple mobile apps as developers can accomplish quite a lot with a small amount of code. However, it’s not so good for more complex projects.
  • Sails.js – Another popular framework, Sails.js is a good choice for real-time services and handling a large volume of data requests as it supports multiple databases at the same time. Sails.js may also be of interest if you are also using Angular in your tech stack.
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More help for your tech stack

Other languages used in addition to Node.js: Again, when developing for Node.js, it’s entirely possible to rely solely upon JavaScript. Developers have also used it in conjunction with Python, Java, PHP, .Net, C++ and C, Go, Ruby, and Swit.

Best databases for use with Node.js: JSON files, Mongo DB, MYSQL, Redis, PostgreSQL

Load balancing tools for use with Node.js: Nginx, Pm2, Apache HTTP, HA Proxy

Containers/Cloud: Docker, AWS Lambda, Kubernetes, Google Cloud, MS Azure

Continuous Integration tools: Jenkins, Travis, Circle CI

Messaging Systems: RabbitMQ, ZeroMQ, some have also tried NSQ and ActiveMQ

Additional Node.js developer statistics

Beyond reducing development costs by being able to rely solely on JavaScript, roughly two-thirds of developers indicate that it has enabled them to be more productive. At the same time, more than 6 in 10 developers using Node.js indicate an increase in their job satisfaction. Roughly half indicate that they’ve experienced an increase in application performance, as well.

Most developers (3 of 4) using Node.js focus on back-end or full-stack development. This remains fairly consistent in all regions internationally. Both back-end and full-stack developers have the most experience (time and frequency of use) with Node.js.

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Source: Nodejs.org

Developers deploy Node.js across a variety of platforms, though AWS dominates:

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Source: Nodejs.org

Node.js developers for your team

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