Node.js Is Helping Developers Get the Most Out of JavaScript

Node.js, the JavaScript runtime of choice for high-performance, low latency apps, continues to gain popularity among developers on the strength of JavaScript.

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Java and Node.js 2

When a small startup decided to launch its technological foundation on top of Microsoft's .NET platform, it needed a .NET expert to provide a master view. Being lean and distributed, the company chose .NET guru Carl Franklin to serve remotely as CTO to oversee things.

However, at the DEVintersection conference in Las Vegas last week, Franklin, now executive vice president of App vNext and co-host and founder of .NET Rocks!, said he held the CTO position for all of two days before someone whispered in the CEO's ear and convinced him that hot, new Node.js—not shriveled old .NET—was the way to go.

"I think Node has always been a viable alternative to .NET on the server side," Franklin told eWEEK.

It was clearly an interesting turn of events for Franklin, but for many others, this is indicative of the popularity of Node.js, which is an open-source, cross-platform JavaScript runtime environment for developing a diverse variety of tools and applications.

"Node.js is rapidly replacing Java and .NET due to the agility of the Node.js software development life cycle," said Dan Shaw, CTO and co-founder of NodeSource, a provider of support services for Node.js shops. "Building a Java app typically takes six to 24 months from start to finish. In contrast, Node.js applications take two to six months."

Moreover, said Shaw, once applications are complete, it's far easier to extend, adapt or even discard and start over with Node.js.

"It's a hard decision to make once you've sunk two years into a project to table it and start over, but with Node.js that's an option which engineering managers have not been able to consider before," he said. "Node.js is the de facto standard for building microservices and bots. NodeSource builds websites, web services, APIs, bots and desktop applications with Node.js."

Fastest-Growing Language

According to the Node.js Foundation, a Linux Foundation project to promote adoption and accelerate development of Node.js, Node.js is the fastest growing and most significant development language right now, with 4 million users and an annual growth rate of 100 percent.

The foundation describes Node.js as the JavaScript runtime of choice for high-performance, low-latency applications, powering everything from enterprise applications to robots, API engines, cloud stacks and mobile websites. It uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it lightweight and efficient in delivering high performance even under extreme loads, the foundation said.

"Node is becoming more and more widely adopted," said Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC. "The primary usage for node is in new applications geared toward APIs. It is often used as a back-end for modern mobile and web apps offering a more lightweight model for handling API calls. The asynchronous nature and the fact that it is basically JavaScript are the most compelling aspects of the language."

Moreover, Node.js ranks among the top 10 languages for full-stack, front-end and back-end developers surveyed by Stack Overflow in its 2016 developer survey. Corporate users of Node.js software include Walmart, PayPal, Capital One, GoDaddy, Groupon, IBM, Microsoft, Netflix, Uber, SAP, Yahoo, Cisco Systems and Lowe's.

As one of the leading Node.js companies, NodeSource does a huge amount of Node.js development, Shaw said.

"We not only build things with Node.js, we literally build Node.js," he said. "NodeSource leads the open-source Node.js project and is a founding member of the Node.js Foundation. Our open-source team members work on all aspects of the Node.js project from writing the code [to] managing the security working group, working on the CI/CD [continuous integration/continuous delivery] infrastructure and actively supporting the Node.js community."

In addition, NodeSource uses Node.js for both front-end and back-end server-side development. Its services are built in Node.js. And its front end JavaScript is created with a Node.js tool chain that includes tools Browserify, Babel and React—all of which rely heavily on Node.js.

"Node.js has proven to be effective not only to power the web through delivering APIs and UX [user experience], but in other places," said Charlie Robbins, director of engineering for the UX platform at GoDaddy and also a Node.js Foundation board member.