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30th August, 2021 | Tutorials |

Nodejs Vs PHP: Which Works Best?

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Before getting into the "battle" between Node.js and PHP we need to understand why the issue is still ongoing. It all started with the increased demand for smartphone applications, their success forcing developers to adapt to new back-end technologies that could handle a multitude of simultaneous requests.

JavaScript has always been identified as a client-side tool, to manage server-side tasks and operations, however, we have often opted for PHP. The emergence of NodeJS, however, has subverted things, allowing you to use JavaScript to do what was previously only possible with a system based on multiple technologies.

PHP and Node.js both are good options for web application development. However, there are huge differences and that’s what we are going to discuss today!

Before we start drawing a comparison between PHP and Node.js, let's first start by learning about the two individually.

Node.js

Node.js is a popular JavaScript-based language that provides everything an application developer needs. The emergence of NodeJS, however, has subverted things, allowing you to use JavaScript to do what was previously only possible with a system based on multiple technologies. Launched in 2009, it has already amply demonstrated the power of JavaScript when used for next-generation event-driven applications.

Popular apps built with Node.js are PayPal, LinkedIn, Netflix, Uber, and GoDaddy.

Advantages of Node.js

These are the advantages of Node.js:

Management of the Input / Output Flow

Node.js takes advantage of Javascript's own event loop to produce applications with an uninterrupted Input / Output stream, which can easily "handle" multiple simultaneous events. By exploiting the asynchronous system owned by Javascript it is possible to create highly scalable server-side solutions that maximize both the use of a single CPU and memory while managing many more requests than common multithreaded servers (capable of managing multiple processes simultaneously).

This feature makes Node.js an excellent choice for building asynchronous, data-driven applications whose Input / Output flow is severely tested, such as Real-Time Applications (RTA ) and single-page applications.

One Language, Different Tasks

Next-generation client-side frameworks, such as React, Angular, and Ember, are written entirely in Javascript, which is the primary scripting language of modern browsers. By using Node.js in combination with these products, you will have all the benefits of using a single language in the web application stack. Using the same language on both the client and server-side is excellent for application maintainability and management by a team because the frontend and backend production groups work with the same Javascript structures, data, functions, and syntax. All of this contributes to faster development, more effective debugging, and improved coordination between development teams.

Very Flexible

Node.js is popular with application developers due to the flexibility it offers. Node.js has few dependencies and rules, which leaves room for the freedom and creativity of the developer to produce next-generation web applications. Node.js developers will be freer to choose the development architecture they deem best, as well as the design patterns, modules, and technical characteristics of production.

JSON

JSON is something that works better with Node.js and allows Node.js developers to build a better website. In addition, JSON provides a lightweight data format for Node.js applications.

Disadvantages of Node.js

These are the downsides of Node.js:

Complex

Node.js follows a complex application development structure that makes it difficult for developers to write code for some types of applications.

Immature

In addition to Core libraries, such as HTTP and Crypto, Node.js has a repository that provides access to a multitude of modules developed by third parties and available to the entire community. However, this collection of modules is still "immature", as it is still difficult to ascertain the quality of a particular module before distributing the application that uses it.

Major Framework

React.js is an open-source cross-platform runtime environment designed for building server-side applications. It has built-in JavaScript programs that can run on OS X, Microsoft Windows, and Linux within the Node.js runtime.

It also provides an excellent library of various JavaScript modules that greatly simplifies creating web applications using Node.js.

React.js Features:

Asynchronous and Event-Driven

All APIs in the React.js library are asynchronous, meaning non-blocking. Basically, this implies that a React.js- based server never expects an API to return data. When calling it, the server switches to the next API, and a Node.js event notification function allows the server to get a response from the previous API call.

Single-Threaded and Scalable

React.js uses a single-threaded loop event model. The event mechanism allows the server to react in a non-blocking manner and makes the server highly scalable, unlike conventional servers that generate limited threads to handle requests. React.js uses a single-threaded program, and the same program can handle many more requests than conventional servers such as Apache HTTP Server.

Cross-platform

Like NodeJS it is cross-platform and can also be rendered into an executable involving all its own dependencies when developed with the correct framework.

Pros of React.JsCons of React.js

PHP

PHP is a popular open-source programming language that allows developers to create server-side solutions. The standard PHP language is object-oriented, simple, and prone to learning even for newbies Furthermore, PHP is a language that integrates with various databases such as Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Informix, Microsoft SQL Server, and Sybase.

Some of the most popular applications built with PHP are Yahoo, Wikipedia, Facebook, and WordPress.

Advantages of PHP

Here are the advantages of PHP:

Third-party Integration

PHP has been used to produce platforms useful for the development of web applications of undoubted quality, such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, which are used extensively by millions of developers around the world and who enjoy constant updates and bug-fixing. Not only can these tools be used by more or less experienced developers, but also by users who are not developers: WordPress, for example, provides a wizard that allows any user to install it without problems. If that's not enough, many servers and hosting services offer pre-installs of WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.

In addition to the CMS dedicated to everyone, PHP is the basis of development frameworks dedicated specifically to professionals, such as Laravel, Symfony, Zend Framework, and Code Igniter.

Absolute Portability

PHP is a portable solution: it can run on almost all servers (Apache, Nginx, and others) and platforms. Likewise, PHP enjoys enormous hosting support, so much so that many providers offer specific options. Node.js instead requires a virtual server with access to SSH to launch applications. The integration of PHP and the distribution of PHP applications could therefore be an easier choice for developers who do not have a very good knowledge of tools such as command line and Linux server technologies which are instead the best choice for working with Node.js.

Web-oriented

Unlike programming languages such as Java and Python, which have a general and broad purpose, PHP has been developed specifically to work with the Web. For this reason, it includes practically all the functionality required to manage HTML, interact with the server, client, and database. The "server-side" power of PHP allows you to lighten the client's workload, and this is a great feature for certain types of applications.

However, the workload on the server is not a good option for many types of applications, such as RTAs and SPAs, in which frequent and regular requests are produced to the server, where therefore a richer client-side functionality, managed in a single stream is a better option.

Disadvantages of PHP

Here are the disadvantages of PHP:

Insufficient Segregation of Duties

The SoC ( Separation of Concerns) paradigm is a design principle that aims to divide a system into distinct modules so that each module handles a certain task. The Model-View-Controller ( MVC ) design pattern, which prescribes a separation of duties within a single system, is for example a concrete representation of the SoC principle. MVC ensures the readability, maintainability, and scalability of web applications.

Although almost all PHP frameworks are largely based on MVC, PHP itself is not the best environment for the SoC, given its natural tendency to mix scripting and HTML / CSS / Javascript in the same files. Without a clear and concrete separation between logic and content, PHP is not ideal for building SoC applications.

Old-fashioned Client-Server Model

PHP follows the "classic" client-server interaction model, in which each page request initializes the application, database connection, configuration parameters, and HTML rendering. This model makes PHP slower than Node.js, where applications run without interruption and need only one initialization. Due to this feature, Node.js is a more suitable and appropriate choice for the development of modern applications that exploit the potential of HTML 5, AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript And XML), and Web Sockets.

PHP, through Memchaded (a generic cache management system), can manage this problem to speed up the interaction with databases by caching data and objects in RAM, in order to reduce the number of times an external system is managed, but this feature is not a standard PHP language feature.

Weak at Handling Errors

PHP is poor when it comes to error handling methods. It doesn't let the PHP development company team find the perfect solution. Most PHP experts face this problem.

Major Framework

Laravel is a versatile, simple to understand, and open-source PHP framework. It follows the design pattern of a model view controller. Laravel uses existing components of various frameworks that help build a web application. The built web application is more organized and pragmatic.

Laravel provides a rich collection of features that integrate the main components of PHP frameworks like CodeIgniter, Yii, and other programming languages like Ruby on Rails.

If you know Core PHP and Advanced PHP, Laravel will lead you to better productivity. If you plan to create a website from scratch, it also saves a lot of time. Furthermore, a website built with Laravel is secure and protects you from various web attacks.

Laravel Features

Template Engine

The Laravel framework is widely acclaimed for its lightweight integrated templates that are used to produce stunning layouts through the spread of interactive content. It also offers stable frameworks with various widgets that integrate CSS and JS code. Laravel templates are creatively designed to build simple yet complex layouts with differentiated segments.

MVC Architecture Support

Laravel promotes an MVC architecture pattern that allows for separation between business logic and presentation layers. Laravel's MVC pattern has several built-in features, improves application performance, and improves protection and usability.

Database Migration System

The Laravel migration system aims to extend the web application's database structure without having to recreate each time a code change occurs. Due to this function, the risk of data loss is extremely minimal. Not only does this provide the facility to change the database structure, but it also allows you to use PHP code instead of SQL. The Laravel Schema Builder helps create tables for the database and quickly attached indexes or columns.

Pros of LaravelCons of Laravel

Node.js and PHP Market Share

When we talk about the two most popular technologies, Node.js and PHP, it is essential to talk about numbers. Especially when these technologies are observing such heights.

Node.js ranks first in the list of top frameworks used by developers at 51.4%. While, on the other hand, PHP is one of the 10 most used programming languages by 26.2%.

Differences between Node.js and PHP

Node.js is a platform for running JavaScript code on the server that is based on Google Chrome's V8 interpreter.

It has gained strength in recent years for several reasons, two of them are:

Programming Model

The way to program in Node.js differs a lot from the way to program in PHP. In PHP, the code is usually executed sequentially, so when it is necessary to perform a search in an external source, for example, a database, we do it in a similar way:

$result = db->query('select ...'); //result is used by the program 

This way, the entire application is waiting for the query to return a value for $result, stopping the entire application process and implying that this code needs to run in multithreaded to serve multiple requests. This behavior classifies PHP as a blocking language by default.

Since Node.js runs JavaScript on the server, a query to a database can be done in a way that doesn't block the application process:

db.query("select ...", function (result) { // result is used by the program});

In the code above, the query method receives as its second parameter, an anonymous function, and when the result is retrieved from the database, this function will be executed asynchronously, receiving the query result as its parameter. That function that is called inside another function is the callback function. Meanwhile, the application continues its process without waiting for the query to finish executing. This asynchronous code behavior without the need to work multithreaded classifies JavaScript as a non-blocking language.

Infrastructure Differences

PHP is an interpreted programming language that runs on a web server, commonly Apache. As PHP is blocking, Apache, by default, creates a new process thread whenever a request is made to the web service. However, Apache has a limited pool of threads it can create. If all possible server threads are running, when a request is made, that new request will wait until a thread is available, at the risk of the request timing out.

Node.js was created with the intention of performing Input and Output (I/O) of data and in a way that does not block the flow of the application. It does this by creating event loops in a single thread, which are executed whenever a request is made to the service to create a new thread. JavaScript was chosen as the language implemented in Node.js because it is able to handle asynchronous code in the browser, which is compatible with its paradigm.

Serving an Application

Unlike PHP where the webserver (Apache) interprets and executes the .php files when a request is made, Node.js uses an internal way to serve your web applications. The node.js itself has the http library, which provides tools to start the server and listen for a port. Below is an example of how to serve an application with Node.js:

const http = require('http'); 
const address= 'localhost'; 
const port = 3000; 
const server = http.createServer((req, res) => 
{ res.statusCode = 200;
 res.setHeader('Content-Type', 'text/plain');
res.end('Hello World!'); 
}); 
server.listen(port,address, () => { 
console.log(`Server running at http://${address}:${port}/`);
 });

Performance Differences

In general, the Node.js non-blocking single-thread model is more performant than the traditional multithreaded model, since to run multiple threads the machine uses more memory and processing than to run a single thread. Because of this, the maintenance of Node servers tends to be cheaper than that of other platforms, when compared to services of the same size.

As the application grows, the need to serve it on more than one machine naturally arises, since the number of simultaneous connections in a Node service is greater than in multithreaded applications. Node applications usually need fewer servers, varying according to the nature of the application.

By default then, Node.js applications tend to be more performant than PHP applications when it comes to handling multiple requests, which makes Node more suitable for applications with large data streams.

As the Node server uses a single process separated in event loops, the processor usage is not fully optimized compared to PHP applications, which makes Node not recommended for applications that do a lot of processing by the server.

Finally, it is interesting to mention that there are ways to write non-blocking code in PHP. The PHP React library, for example, provides ways to implement event-driven programming. Its purpose is to serve as a low-level library for building components that work asynchronously similar to Node.js. This type of feature brings PHP in light of the event loop system used by Node and has been shown to reduce the performance gap between Node and PHP when implemented.

Final Considerations

We conclude then that Node.js is a very powerful tool for creating web server-side applications that demand multiple requests and that deal with large volumes of data. That said, we see that its greatest power lies in re-using the knowledge of front-end JavaScript programmers who are able to renew themselves as Fullstack developers without having to learn a new programming language. This is an unprecedented advance and it's not surprising that the JavaScript community is one of the fastest-growing in the world of web software development.

However, while choosing the technology, the question to consider should not be which is the best among Node.js or PHP, but which can best meet your project needs. Understanding the business and project logic can provide a clear idea for choosing the right technology platform for the project. Also, one more essential thing to consider here is the proficiency and skills of the programmers who use this specific technology, how they make use of it and apply it to the specific project.

Node.js's support for server-side events and Web Sockets makes it an ideal choice for applications that process data from the IoT ( Internet of Things ) and for SPAs that involve massive client-side work, as well as for the Web services, where server-side features such as REST APIs provide a client/database connection and the speed of CRUD operations and asynchronous processes is of utmost importance.

On the contrary, PHP is an optimal choice for the development of "classic" applications (blogs, web portals, and e-commerce stores). With all major CMS written in PHP, it is easy to create these applications and make them dynamic without adding many lines of code.

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