How to Use Node.js to Build a Web App
You have probably heard of apps like Netflix, LinkedIn, Uber, eBay, etc. All of them offer different types of services like entertainment, financial services, transportation, and others. Despite diversifying into multiple market sectors, these companies often prefer building their products using Node.js. Apparently, there’s a good reason for this.
But, is there a catch?
Set out below are the specifics of Node.js architecture, to dispel any misconceptions and let you understand how top companies have made their applications so popular on the market.
What’s Node.js And How It Works?
The current web development industry uses a revolutionized version of Node.js. In the traditional web-response scenario previously adopted while building web applications, clients always initiate communication. But now, modern Node.js usage is more advantageous for a service-side, two-way connection between the client and server in real-time.
From here, Node.js is a runtime environment that allows the building of real-time web applications. Famous for its mobile application backend, Node.js lets developers reduce the app development time and removes the need for other programming languages. Its open-source environment unifies multiple app development processes into one Node.js ecosystem.
As shown in the picture, in traditional architecture, each new request generates a new thread and fills a maximum of the available system’s RAM. Node.js however, supports several thousand concurrent connections in the event loop based on the operation of a single thread in a non-blocking manner. As a result, network applications benefit from high scalability, fast computation, and less memory occupation. Depending on product recommendations, some characteristics may potentially lead to one of the pitfalls of Node.js applications. But, that we will consider later.
One more thing that distinguishes node.js architecture are the techniques used to handle any exceptions that may arise. Here, emerging errors are passed back to the caller as callback parameters instead of typical error messages in other environments.
Pros of Node.js
Fast data processing
The performance-based metrics of node.js leads to fast data processing. Three major causes intensify this speed:
A non-blocking nature, along with managing asynchronous requests, allows avoidance of processing delays, which reduces response time.
Real-time and event-based models benefit mainly from a common language for the client and server-side.
Robust technology stack
In the absence of other alternatives for back-end programming in JS stack, Node can ensure your web application is produced using a reliable software package. Here, the node.js stack offers high speed, result-based performance, better developer productivity, code sharing, and many freely accessible tools. In one word - it means flexibility.
Perfect for microservices architecture;
Apart from the monolithic architecture, Node.js technology is more scalable and supports splitting application logic into smaller microservices. Because of this structure, better performance and speed of application are guaranteed. Each microservice is running its processes and communicates with the databases directly. In such a way, developers can easily add more microservices instead of having to integrate additional features with traditional architecture. As a result, the development time can be reduced, and the overall implementation process becomes easier.
The Open-source NPM repository (the Node Package Manager) is an open-source library and built-in default tool of the Node.js installation package. Over sixty thousand modules are available in this ecosystem. They are reusable components that can easily be installed through the online repository. Also, users can see their own published modules in the NPM repository. These packages are indeed valuable and accessible to all users in a few clicks.
Cons of Node.js
It is not reasonable to argue that any technology, tool, or technique comes without possible drawbacks. Here, let’s pay attention to a couple of potential pitfalls when writing a Node.js-based application.
Low performance with heavy computational tasks
We should emphasize that the NPM repository can be vulnerable if any undocumented library packages are downloaded. Understandably, risks can often threaten an open-source ecosystem by the installation of unreliable tools. Thus, it is essential to take into account these issues in advance.
Where Node.js Should Be Used
Since we now understand the significant advantages and disadvantages of the Node.js architecture, let's browse the practical examples where its benefits can bring the required performance of app functionality.
The first successful application that comes to mind to prove its worth in streaming applications is Netflix. Built with Node.js, this global media service provider managed to create readable and writable data streams. The non-blocking architecture of Node.js allows the encoding and broadcasting of video and audio. With multiple data and actual streams, it is possible to process files even when they are still in the process of uploading. It is essentially valuable if you need to source data from different APIs.
As Node.js applications stand out because of increased speed and better performance, real-time flows benefit from this ability. Specific cases of IoT devices and any data-sensitive applications are also in these ranks. Other examples with multiple users are live chats, social networks, and game apps. The Node.js environment shows the green light to processing heavy traffic while displaying data at the same time.
Serving as a server-side proxy, it is possible to handle large amounts of connections simultaneously. Built as a client-side app, a Node.js server is useful when proxying incoming API requests. When you need a local server to collect data from different sources and proxy different response times - this is the technology of your choice.
IoT & Smart Sensors
As we’ve already mentioned, smart sensors of the IoT ecosystem require a large amount of real-time data processing. The performant and fast ecosystem will handle a lot of data-generation in real-time on multiple IoT devices and smart sensors. The IoT platform will be easily controlled, remain effective, and hold secure communication. By the way, Node.js comes with an NPM package, where a lot of IoT modules are included to ensure your IoT application will be rapid and robust. For instance, Zetta.js, Cylon.js, or Device.js are the most common ones.
Server-Side Web Applications
Node.js will ease your development in a server-side web application if your application does not require CPU-heavy computation. With one of the popular Express.js web application frameworks, it is a widely used approach to build high-performance apps.
One minor point to clarify is necessary. At the moment, if you use Node.js with a relational database, it's better to choose other environments like Rails or Django to avoid poor performance.
Where Node.js Shouldn’t Be Used
As implied, there are situations where Node.js wouldn’t be the best technology choice. See a couple of them below.
Heavy Server-Side Processing
Starting from Node.js architecture, a single-threaded mechanism with a single CPU core is not a favourable event-driven model for heavy computational processes. The intensive speed of processing and throughput will be lowered as incoming requests will be blocked while the thread processes one computation task at a time. So, despite handling numerous simultaneous connections, big requests distort the whole picture due to the fact that the event loop cannot distribute the CPU workload effectively.
Complex Safety-Critical Systems
When considering the situations about when to use node.js, projects that need safety-critical solid systems are not among them. As we already mentioned in the previous section, possible NPM vulnerability may pose a real risk to global organizations, especially when operating with financial and banking systems. An open-source pool of libraries might endanger the programmer’s code and even shut down entire development processes. Here, your key to success - the right tech partner.
10 Top Apps Built with Node.js
The vibrant community of leading companies underlines Node.js contribution in their real examples. These products have significantly matured with the benefits of the Node.js ecosystem. As a result, the 10 most popular web apps have experienced huge demand increases in 2021. Let’s see how the top companies achieved their goals with Node.js usage.
Netflix & Node.js
Well-known as a global video service provider, streaming in more than 30 languages and available in 190 countries, Netflix trusted the Node.js stack to build a fast, lightweight, and effective application.
As a result, Node.js application’s startup time improved by 70%. The developer’s team is gradually moving the obtained efficiency to data access layers. In terms of the Netflix tech environment, they have managed to enable user customization, decrease build times and update the user interface completely with Node.js.
It looks like the company will keep on applying positive project development outcomes to other stack layers of Node applications.
PayPal & Node.js
Today, PayPal is an Internet payment system that has over 300 million users worldwide. Similar to Netflix project expectations, the company had problems with the consumer side of their web application. Their development teams were forced to perform tasks separately for browser and server-side.
Luckily, the problem was solved after Node.js adoption.
LinkedIn & NodeJS
The next globally known business networking system LinkedIn allows over 450 million users to enjoy an efficient app performance. Its mobile app backend is built on Node.js. No surprise at all!
As per the company's statement, their initial problems were insufficient scale and poor performance efficiency.
As a result, contrary to other Ruby on Rails-based versions, Node.js approaches have solved their problems faster. They were satisfied with the reduced development time, higher performance efficiency on the client-side, doubled traffic capacity and a decrease in the number of servers needed.
Uber & Node.js
The convenience the clients of Uber are often experiencing is merited to the adoption of a Node.js stack. The online transportation network company is doubling in size constantly. It indicates the improved Node.js data processing capabilities.
Before bringing Node.js solutions into life, the primary requirements addressed the problem of reliability between the drivers and customers and an intensive demand for mobile taxi services.
As a result, according to the company’s statements, the success with Node.js is justified by:
processing large amounts of data quickly,
the obtained convenience of error analysis;
quick code deployment;
continued technology improvement due to the optimization of the Node.js open-source ecosystem.
Groupon & Node.js
The well-known e-commerce marketplace Groupon allows over 48 million customers to purchase different products, services, and activities at affordable prices.
Like the LinkedIn example, the Ruby on Rails solution didn’t bring the many benefits that Node.js usage has. With such big project growth, they needed easy scalability, better performance, and efficiency.
As a result, they managed to serve the same amount of traffic with less hardware, make independent changes in apps quickly, and obtain about 50% faster web page loading.
eBay & Node.js
The massive amount of traffic needed for the maintenance of result-based app performance and scalability triggered Ebay's development team to switch to the Node.js alternative.
eBay is a leading giant in an e-commerce field focused on internet sales services. It is known that by 2020, the company has reached over 182 million users across 32 countries.
The necessity for real-time processing was an incentive for web engineers to adopt the Node.js advantages.
As a result, eBay is now getting:
Maintenance of live connections to servers;
Speed and simplicity;
Improved performance of eBay-specific services.
Walmart and Node.js
Walmart is one of the largest retail companies in the world. As almost 220 million customers attend 10500 stores weekly, the reason to choose client-side Node.js benefits is apparent. Its Node.js production stack consists of SmartOS, the open-source framework HAPI, a private NPM package, and plugins.
As a result of Node.js adoption, Walmart apps are now creating and deploying new APIs in much less time. Its release times have been significantly cut as well.
Medium & Node.js
Another example of successful Node.js stack installation for its web servers is the Medium publishing platform. Hundreds of articles and 25 million monthly readers are parts of the Medium space. Node.js backend allows the publishing platform to share code between client and server. Its service-oriented backend structure uses Node.js to handle the required operations.
As a result, the deployment time increased to 15 minutes, but the main app services deploy 5 times every 10 minutes.
NASA and Node.js
Even a leading space agency such as NASA has its place in the list of Node.js fans. According to company statements, Node.js helps to provide their astronauts with safer conditions. After having a dangerous incident in space, NASA decided to build its own end-to-end data system.
As a result, they used web API to link two environments and reduce access times by 300%. They also designed one database to avoid data scattering.
Unbelievably, from that moment, astronauts were safe and sound and worked efficiently in space.
Trello and Node.js
As a result, the Trello server-side was built with MongoDB, Redis - for data sharing and HAProxy- for load balance. Also, Node was used for some prototyping. Engineers made the right choice of technology that helped them to adjust the design quickly and effectively.
Options to Build a Node.js App
Today, enterprise-scale systems apply different types of Node.js adoption. For instance, they use the Node technology for full tech stack with both front-end and back-end capabilities or with microservice architecture.
Building A Node.js App With MEAN/MERN Stack
Usually, tech stacks include different frameworks, libraries, programming languages, databases, and other tools. The full stack JS approaches offer better convenience for startup projects exclusively. In either case, more experienced developers are free to compose their own stack.
The difference in front-end tools can answer the question of which stack is better. But, both the MEAN and MERN stack has pros and cons. Using the MEAN stack is advantageous due to Angular being a complete framework having everything developers might need from the start. React can ensure better performance due to virtual DOM implementation, but the team might need to search for additional libraries. Besides, the latter can be considered as a benefit because of flexibility in tools usage.
Building A Node.js App With Microservice Architecture
Aside from choosing a precise stack, node.js is good for building a web app with microservice architecture. In such a way, application logic can be divided into singly independent modules providing better flexibility with lightweight mechanisms. As a result, each microservice communicates with the database through threads separately.
For microservice architecture, the usage of the Express framework fits this choice even more. To add, the Walmart case approves the rationale in this option because of the number of benefits gained rapidly. Hardware usage was cut to 40% and overall operations to 20% minimum. Also, the team reached 100% uptime on Black Friday in 2018. Astonishing!
How Much Does it Cost to Develop Node.js Application in 2021?
Considering the part concerning the necessary expenses to develop node.js apps, the current rates vary depending on the choice of the company and several other factors.
As per your project requirements, there are aspects that can affect the final cost. For example, you should consider the size and complexity of the features you would like. Then, the cost-range may increase if third-party services like API services, data storage facilities, hosting platforms or any extra efforts are required. And do not forget to take into account the long-term maintenance cost factors as well.
Anyway, you can book a professional consultation and we will contact you to estimate your app project more precisely.
With its long list of advantages, the different components of a Node.js stack have altered the perception of typical web application models. We cannot be more convincing than the actual list of top Node.js web apps.
In fact, Node.js was created to address the problem of I/O scaling. Even with the drawbacks identified earlier in this article, the purpose of Node.js has clearly been accomplished.
The Node.js ecosystem keeps maturing to become a best-in-class server-side architecture in the web development environment. Numerous tech giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix trust this solution and know what product ideas can be best implemented with Node.js usage.
All in all, if your project requires the best speed and scalability of real-time operation, let us offer you the Node.js benefits to build an outstanding web application.
In a nutshell, the main advantages of Node.js are the ability to handle multiple concurrent requests simultaneously, keeping it lightweight. Node.js offers high scalability, a great ecosystem, ease of usage, fast data processing, robust tech stack, and the support of a large developer community.
We consider the low performance of heavy computing tasks and NPM library vulnerability to be the main disadvantages that can invite many unwanted code changes.
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