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Getting to Grips with Node.js: What is it and What does it Do?

The answer to that question depends on who you ask. Fundamentally, Node.js is a carefully-packaged compilation of the Google V8 JavaScript engine, a core library, and the LibUV platform abstraction layer. Of course, Node.js is more than just a bunch of code. It's a solution for creating real-time websites with their own push capabilities.

For developers, Node.js shines through as a service for real-time web applications that employ push technology using web-sockets. That's incredibly important in the modern marketplace, where we finally have web applications featuring effective, two-way connections where both a server and client can initiate communication.

As the ideal option for companies hoping to deliver fast-paced and modern experiences for customers, Node.js now plays an important role in the technology stack for many organisations.

How Does Node.js Work?

Before you can decide whether Node.js is right for your development project, it's important to get to the bottom of how this solution works. The main idea behind Node.js is to use event-driven, non-blocking I/O to keep your website or application agile and efficient when it comes to running real-time data-intensive applications.

While Node.js shouldn't be the silver bullet for web development in the modern world, it does fulfil a very specific need for modern developers. For instance, though you probably shouldn't use the Node-JS system to build CPU-intensive systems, you can use it very well to build highly scalable and fast network applications. Node. JS is great for this purpose because it's capable handling large numbers of connections with a high level of throughput, ensuring better scalability.

That's the basics of what Node.js does, but how everything works at the backend is even more interesting. Compared to traditional web-serving solutions where each connection spawns a new thread, Node.js uses a single threat to operate, through non-blocking I/O calls that ensure it can support thousands of connections at once.

What's the Node JS NPM (Node Package Manager)?

If you've been wondering about the benefits of Node.js lately, then you've probably noticed the term "NPM" thrown around online a lot. One of the things that are worth talking about when you're discussing Node.js, is the built-in package management support available. The NPM service comes automatically built-in to every Node.js installation, and the NPM modules are very similar to that of Ruby Gems.

In simple terms, NPM is a set of easily-available and reusable components that are ready to access through installation on an online repository. You can find a complete list of the packaged modules in the NPM on their website or check them out with the NPM CLI tool that automatically installs alongside the Node.js system.

A particularly interesting part of Node.js is that the NPM ecosystem is available for anyone to contribute to - so it's constantly growing.

The Advantages of Using Node.js

There are plenty of features that make Node.js the first choice of software architects in search of agility and versatility. For instance:

  • It's incredibly fast: The Node.js system was built on the Google Chrome V8 JavaScript engine, which means that its library is rich with code execution speed.
  • I/O is event-driven and asynchronous: All of the APIs in the Node.js library is non-blocking, which means that you never have to wait for an API to return data. The server moves onto the next API after calling it, and a notification mechanism helps the server to get a response from previous calls.
  • Highly-scalable: The Node.js is very scalable for today's companies because it helps the server to respond as quickly as possible to requests.
  • Single-threaded. The Node.js system follows a single-thread model with event looping systems in place.
  • Limited buffering: With Node.js, developers can reduce overall processing time when they're uploading video and audio files. Node.js applications never buffer data, but output information in chunks instead.
  • Open-source: The open-source community means that the modules available on Node.js are constantly evolving.

Finishing Thoughts on Node.js

The important thing to remember about Node.js is that it's not going to be the best developer framework for you to use if your project contains a lot of CPU intensive operations. However, if you're planning on making the most of agile application creation, then Node.js could be ideal for you. After all, it was designed to solve the problem with I/O scaling by offering a single-threaded and event-driven approach to coding. For fast and scalable network applications, Node.js offers a key to the real-time web.

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