The rise of Node.js

Widely used across all industries, Node.js is at the heart of projects that require superior user experience to help generate increased sales, improve customer engagement and build better brand awareness.

Media and e-commerce were among the first to begin leveraging the power of the Node.js platform. However, Node.js has evolved, and now many industries leverage it in the battle for enhanced digital customer engagement.

For example, the user experience of online and mobile banking is a key factor in whether customers choose and remain loyal to a bank. Node.js has become core to such projects.

As Node.js has matured, it has established itself as a reliable and performant solution for building digital projects. Node.js offers many advantages to companies looking to innovate, with five major benefits standing out from the list.

5 benefits of Node.js for digital enterprise

1. Greater speed to market for applications

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Because JavaScript is one of the most popular and familiar programming languages, developers generally find Node.js easy to learn.

There is an enormous amount of community-provided, reusable code, which lets developers focus on business logic and backend development, rather than on re-implementing the basics. It is relatively easy to migrate skills from frontend JavaScript to Node.js. This, combined with the ability to reuse common code, results in greater efficiency and speed to market.

The Node.js community solved one of the hardest problems of software development: code reuse. The ability to reuse code accelerates the development and delivery of today’s software applications.

The Node.js package manager, npm, hosts the largest community of open source libraries. Currently, npm hosts more than 836,000 reusable software packages. These reusable packages offer a vast variety of functionality and can be assembled in multiple powerful ways. Module size varies from tiny to huge, and they are easily composed and decomposed.

Typical Node.js applications use thousands of reusable modules in development, and only a few direct dependencies can grow the dependency tree exponentially. This begs the question of how to efficiently manage upgrading these applications.

The Node.js ecosystem adopts a versioning methodology called Semantic Versioning. This allows developers to quickly communicate if upgrading to newer versions will break the application. Tools automate these processes, making it painless and fast.

The Node.js Long-Term Support (LTS) strategy provides a stable platform for companies adopting Node.js. Every Node LTS release is supported for three years with updates and security fixes. This provides plenty of time for companies to upgrade on their own terms. The community provides this support, and it is not a paid service.

2. Improved developer skills and productivity

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In today’s market, the demand for developer talent and specific skills often exceeds supply. Complicating things further is the rapidly shifting global talent pool, which makes the challenge more complex than just finding the right talent.

To overcome this, companies need to do things differently. They need to increase the efficiency of existing software engineers, while also sourcing the right development teams for the right projects. This is where Node.js shines.

Node.js is based on JavaScript, one of the most widely used languages among developers. This makes it relatively easy to apply JS skills in migrating to Node.js for server-side development. The ability to migrate easily also makes Node.js attractive for new developers.

About half of respondents to the 2018 Node.js developer survey said that it was generally easy to learn Node.js. Sixty-two percent reported increased developer satisfaction using Node.js. Such an easy learning curve helps widen the pool of talent for businesses.

Node.js enables developers to be productive from day one, as most frontend developers need little training. However, server-side software still requires other skills. Database design, for example, is something a typical frontend developer is not familiar with.

There is a very high demand for these sets of technologies, so many developers are training or retraining on them. The job market for these developers is very fluid.

3. Increased performance of server-side software

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Node.js provides a fabulous developer experience combined with an extremely performant runtime.

Node.js introduced the concept of an Event Loop to the vast majority of the developer community. An event loop enables a single-thread to handle tens of thousands of concurrent HTTP requests — a key requirement in performing non-blocking I/O operations. Node.js made this so simple that it fades into the background, whereas previously it was hard to use.

Node.js performance is also improving over time. As with any platform, Node.js applications can suffer from performance issues but these can often be addressed. Sometimes the first step is assessing whether an organisation is maximising the potential of the technology.

For example, one of our clients, Net-A-Porter, was running on Node.js but not reaching the performance potential of their platform. By equipping them with additional tools and skills around Node.js, we helped them achieve a tenfold increase in performance. This led to a 50% increase in throughput while reducing server costs by a whopping 60%.

The Node.js Diagnostics Working Group maintains and creates tools for the ecosystem. These tools enable developers to solve Node.js performance issues quickly. NearForm also provides support through Clinic.JS to help developers make optimisations even simpler.

4. Supports modern architecture and scalability

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The modern approach to software development hinges on more flexible and modular architectures. It is cloud-based, uses microservices and drives greater agility and versatility. This is encapsulated in a cloud-native approach to modernising existing applications and building new ones.

Node.js supports cloud-native, microservices-based architectures and applications. Node servers shine when they are small, specialised machinery within an engine.

There is a reason why Node.js fueled both microservices-based and then serverless architectures. By providing a quick startup time, low resource consumption and high performance, Node.js offers the ideal technology for these modern architectures.

Microservices enable separate teams to develop, maintain and deploy each part of an application independently. The interaction points between the parts are clearly defined through APIs over a network. Microservices are often I/O bound, as data is exchanged between the various parts of the application. Node.js excels in reducing the overhead of these communications.

Microservices can also be scaled up and down independently, reducing the overall resource consumption. Node.js is ideally suited to lean, targeted code for a specific function.

Node.js is often deployed on top of Kubernetes in enterprise scenarios, both in the cloud and on-premise. Kubernetes is an open-source container-orchestration system for automating deployment, scaling and management of containerised applications. The two technologies complement each other’s strengths: They enable organisations to scale applications easily while minimising costs.

5. Powered by community and open source

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Developers all over the world download billions of modules per month from npm. This explosion of open source software propelled the overall JavaScript community and also changed how developers build software.

The extensive usage of Semantic Versioning enables developers to automatically update their dependencies. This important aspect of open source software resolves one of the hardest problems in previous technologies such as Java or .NET.

Innovative companies are now adopting a similar model for in-house software development. This new model is called InnerSource, and it enables organisations to bring the lessons learned from the open source community in house, fostering code reuse.

The JavaScript ecosystem is often criticised for the exponential growth of the number of dependencies that a project needs. However, this could not be further from the truth. The large number of dependencies enable developers to write software faster.

Now developers are using tested and verified libraries, without having to reinvent the wheel each time. These open source components accelerate speed to market, and the thriving community that makes Node.js so successful makes them possible.

The Node.js community pioneered a new way of contributing to open source projects. Traditionally, open source projects are guarded by a single maintainer or a company. In contrast, the Node.js project adopts a more open model.

A contribution in the form of a Pull Request is accepted if there is consensus between collaborators. After several contributions, individuals are awarded the status of collaborators. This governance model enables the project to evolve in whatever direction the contributors want, summarised by the often repeated line that “Node.js has no roadmap.”

Get the most out of the Node.js platform

Node.js is not new. Rather, it is found at the core of many familiar, widely used applications today. Node.js is ideal for new projects as well as modernising existing applications.

Taking advantage of high developer adoption, a vibrant open source community and its suitability in cloud-native architectures, Node.js offers a powerful platform for digital transformation efforts. The key to success for organisations now and into the future will be a commitment by organisations to maximise their Node.js initiatives to yield the performance, security and scalability that it can offer.

Learn more about our Node.js development services for Enterprise solutions.

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Published by NearForm
10th November 2020