Find out what you can do with Node.js
Node.js is suitable for many different projects – here are some areas where it excels in performance:
Internet of Things
The most obvious advantage of Node.js as a backend for such networks is its ability to process multiple concurrent requests and events emitted by thousands or even millions of devices on the network. The avalanche of requests and data coming from IoT devices does not block Node.js servers thanks to their event-driven architecture and asynchronous processing suitable for I/O-heavy operations on the IoT network.
This makes Node.js fast as an application layer between these devices and databases used to store the data originating from them.
IoT developers working in data-intensive scenarios can leverage the low resource requirements of Node.js. Low memory requirements allow for the easy integration of Node.js as software into single-board controllers such as Arduino, widely used for building digital devices that form IoT systems.
Finally, the Node community has been an early adopter of the IoT technology, creating over 80 packages for Arduino controllers and multiple packages for the Pebble and Fitbit wearable devices widely used in IoT systems.
Real-time chats can take the form of one-to-one or one-to-many group chats built on instant messaging (IM) or Internet Relay Chat (IRC) technologies.
Node.js provides all basic functionalities for building real-time chats of any complexity. In particular, Node has a powerful Event API that facilitates creating certain kinds of objects (“emitters”) that periodically emit named events “listened” for by event handlers. Thanks to this functionality, Node.js makes it easy to implement server-side events and push notifications widely used in instant messaging and other real-time applications.
Node’s event-based architecture also works well with the WebSockets protocol that facilitates a fast two-way exchange of messages between the client and the server via one open connection. By installing WebSockets libraries on the server and the client-side, you can implement real-time messaging that has lower overheads and latency and faster data transfer than most other, more conventional, solutions.
In Node, you have excellent support for WebSockets via such libraries as socket.io, ws, or websocket-node, thanks to which you can easily deploy efficient real-time chats and applications. With socket.io, for example, all you have to do to create a basic live chat is install the socket.io library on the server and the client and create event emitters and broadcasters that will push messages across the WebSockets open connection – this basic functionality can be achieved with just a few lines of code.
Complex single-page applications
Node.js is a great fit for SPAs thanks to its efficient handling of asynchronous calls and heavy I/O workloads characteristic of these applications. Node.js’s event loop allows to “delay” multiple concurrent requests from the client, which ensures smooth transitions between views and seamless data updates. Also, Node.js works well with data-driven SPAs, where the server acts as a backend that provides data to the client whereas the client does all the HTML rendering.
With such framework as Express available via the NPM repository, you can turn Node.js into a REST API streaming data and services from specific routes. Such approach helps reduce the server’s load while ensuring API sharing across different applications and environments. In this scenario, Node.js would only return the index page (index.html) while data would be sent via REST interfaces and controllers implemented server-side.
From the design point of view, such approach will ensure the clear separation of concerns (SoC) between models, controllers, and views with all data-related services implemented server-side.
Real-time collaboration tools
As in the case of the real-time chat, Node’s asynchronous and event-based architecture is a great fit for collaboration apps. In these applications, many events and I/O requests occur concurrently. For example, several users can edit the same paragraph, comment, post messages, and attach media. Changes to one piece of content might be applied only after a cascade of events, where each step depends on the previous one.
Node’s WebSockets and Event API ensure that heavy I/O operations performed by many users do not make the server hang and that all server-side events and data are sent back to the client on time. By emitting push notifications to the client, Node.js also instantly updates the collaboration environment so that all users have a single and coherent representation of the application. This is precisely the reason why the team of project management app Trello uses the Node.js stack.
The engineering team of Trello decided that Node.js would be great to instantly propagate a lot of updates and hold a lot of open connections, thanks to its event-driven and non-blocking architecture. Among other real-time collaboration apps built on Node.js, we should also mention Yammer, a freemium social networking service facilitating private communication in enterprises.
Node.js is excellent for the development of streaming applications thanks to its native Stream API. In particular, Node.js has an interface of readable and writable streams that can be processed and monitored very efficiently. Stream instances are basically Unix pipes that allow transmitting parts of the app’s executable code to the local machine while keeping a connection open for new components to download on demand.
Streams allow users to pipe requests to each other and stream data directly to its final destination. As a bonus, streams do not require caching and temporary data – just an open connection to stream app data from one place to another.
Node.js is an excellent solution for developing microservices and creating easy-to-use APIs to connect them. In particular, the Node.js repository features Express and Koa frameworks, which make it easy to mount several server instances for each microservice and design routing addresses for them. Node.js with Express allows for creating highly flexible modules responsible for specific parts of your app.
In addition, Node.js can be easily integrated with Docker and will thus allow you to encapsulate microservices in hermetic containers to avoid any conflicts between the application development environments used in each of them.
Using Node.js for microservices also benefits from Node’s lightweight requirements. Node.js with microservices significantly reduces app deployment time and enhances efficiency, maintainability, and scalability of your applications.
Microservices architecture also helps manage the division of labor in your engineering teams efficiently, enabling them to work on specific tasks without affecting other parts of your application.