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Explained: Why and How Enterprises Should Use Node.js

When you ask Alexa to play your favorite music or to turn lights on/off or to order a pizza for you, have you ever pondered who makes all of that happen? There are, of course, a few heroes that pull the strings behind the scenes, and one of them is Node.js which is a JavaScript runtime environment used by startups and enterprises alike for everything from enterprise applications, robotics, API engines, cloud stacks and mobile websites. Its lightweight architecture and modularity allow it to power some of the most widely used websites like Netflix, Capital One, Google, Airbnb, Twitter, PayPal, Walmart, Yahoo! and more. As you may see from the tweet below by Collin Estes, Director of Software Technologies of the Space Agency, even NASA uses it “to build the present and future systems supporting spaceship operations and development.”

 

Why would NASA use it, and more importantly, why should you care? Simple. At the end of the day, designing the spacesuits for extravehicular activity (EVA) missions at NASA is government work which means that the task should be completed with a tight budget and as fast and as efficiently as possible. In fact, “NASA is always looking to find efficiencies and figure out how best to fund a specific project— no penny should go to waste,” Estes says. Therefore, the system he is creating uses a microservices architecture with separate APIs and applications built in Node.js to move data related to the EVA spacesuits from three separate legacy databases to a cloud database. According to NASA, this model results in reducing the time to access a comprehensive set of data by about 300 percent. Now that you got the point behind the NASA example, we can move on to the real point of this article which is why and how enterprises use Node.js.

First and foremost, every day there are more than 8.8 million Node instances online, and the community of Node.js' package ecosystem (npm) and Node.js developers is now larger than the population of New York City, according to the Node.js Foundation. More and more enterprises are jumping on the bandwagon and adopt the language as their main production framework day by day. To understand what’s so special about that, we need to take a flashback to the birth of this technology and learn what was the main purpose and motivation in the first place. Ryan Dahl, the creator of Node.js, developed this technology to create real-time websites with push capability as he was “inspired by applications like Gmail.” To learn more on that, you can watch this legendary first presentation on Node.js from Ryan Dahl at JSConf 2009.

Fast-forward to today, as I mentioned earlier, Node.js is now becoming an imperative piece of the technology stack of many high-profile companies. In November 2016, after interviewing professionals from Lowe's, NASA, Node.js Foundation, NodeSource, Solstice, WillowTree, and YLD, Forrester published a report that consolidates the five common use cases around Node.js in the enterprise and how it can help organizations hinge their digital transformation:

  • Build APIs that support both application and experience demands: “Node.js is an outstanding platform for the front-end side of this equation because of the natural JavaScript language synergy; it excels in the back-end side because of its ability to perform at scale,” states Forrester analysts.

  • Rapidly experiment with new and existing corporate data: It gives developers direct access to data, at a single federated access point, on a platform that allows them to mash up that data to support their unique scenario.

  • Accelerate application modernization: Mikeal Rogers of the Node.js Foundation stated in the Forrester interview that, "by disconnecting the front- and back-end, it allows developers to integrate new data sources that weren't initially used, creating an opportunity to extend the reach of their product." In other words, without redeveloping applications, developers can deliver new customer experiences.

  • Create digital experiences on all platforms — beyond mobile and web: Slack's success is driven by being available wherever users are, on any variety of mobile or desktop device. Slack built its desktop client using Electron, which is a framework built on Node.js for creating native Mac, Windows, and Linux applications using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This framework enables Slack to use the underlying operating system capabilities while leveraging web platform development skills, according to Forrester.

  • Innovate on future connected device experiences: Given that 71% of enterprises are gathering data for internet of things (IoT) initiatives today, many IoT devices rely on real-time streaming, using data protocols. This data must be processed in real time, which is where Node comes into play.

The Node.js Foundation

With all of its advantages and use cases, more and more individuals and enterprises are expanding their footprints into the Node.js community. In fact, The Node.js Foundation, a community-led and industry-backed consortium to advance the development of the Node.js platform, announced Bitnami, Chef, HackerOne, Key metrics, ^Lift Security, Profound Logic and SafetyCulture have joined the Foundation as Silver Members to help continue the growth, stability and success of this universal platform, whereas Google announced it is furthering its commitment to the Node.js Foundation by becoming a Platinum Member during the annual conference Node.js Interactive, which took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, with more than 700 developers. Besides Google, IBM, Intel, Joyent, Microsoft and Red Hat have been Platinum members of the foundation.

“As a Platinum member, the Google team plans to continue to invest our time and expertise to ensure that the Node.js Foundation has the resources they need to succeed. Node.js not only helps power some of our services, it is also a project which is becoming ever more popular with microservice-based and serverless architectures,” said Sarah Novotny, Head of Open Source Strategy at Google Cloud Platform.

Vancouver, the New Tech Hub?

Besides the fact that there was no shortage of announcements at the annual event, the fact that it took place in Vancouver was also noteworthy to me as more and more, I have been noticing the city of Vancouver taking part in the technology events and talks. It makes sense, though, as the city has been home to a number of enterprising tech unicorns (startups valued at more than $1 billion) such as Slack, Hootsuite, and Avigilon as well as groundbreaking innovators in recent years.

Bloomberg Businessweek has called the city “the new tech hub,” a place offering “world-class talent and few immigration headaches” as well as “great views in a convenient time zone.” Here are some quick facts by the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) that drive more interest to that region:

  • The tech industry generates more than $23 billion in revenue and $15 million in GDP.

  • Wireless technology is at the forefront of technology sector that also includes Software as a Service (SaaS), social media, business intelligence, security and financial tech, e-commerce, and web technologies.

  • A Startup Visa, championed federally by passionate Vancouverites, dedicated solely to attracting the sector’s top global entrepreneurial talent has helped the city become a true talent magnet.

  • The city has been placed among Top 15 best startup ecosystems in the world.

  • 3 of the top 5 ranked universities for software development in Canada are in the Vancouver area according to Linkedin.

  • CBRE’s annual Scoring Tech Talent report uses 13 metrics like number of tech employees, population trends, wages, education levels and housing and business costs to rank the top metro areas for tech. Vancouver B.C. is also among the top tech markets, coming in at 20th. The reason is that it has the lowest cost to operate a tech company in all the markets CBRE surveyed.

My POV

After my digression by bringing up the topic of Vancouver’s new placement in the tech world, let me paddle back to why and how enterprises use Node.js. Considering the real-world examples of its use cases, for example, this technology helped Netflix solve the company’s vertical scaling problem as well as increase developer productivity significantly, Node.js seems to head in the direction where it will become the go-to-framework for both startups and enterprises. There are still many companies using .NET and transitioning to Java but the issue with that method is a high reliance on Microsoft. Although Microsoft has been very successful at supporting .NET developers, with Node.js things are happening faster. Node.js' package ecosystem, npm, is the largest ecosystem of open source libraries in the world, after all. GoDaddy, for instance, rolled out their global site rebrand in one hour with the help of Node.js. Besides live streaming and e-commerce, chat is another great use case for Node.js. 

Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.