The rewards of running server-side JavaScript revealed

The rewards of running server-side JavaScript revealed

Summary: Major US companies have shared how running the node.js JavaScript platform is allowing them to serve web content more rapidly and efficiently.


Major US firms are reporting that switching to node.js on their servers has boosted back-end performance and streamlined server-side development.

After swapping to node.js, various companies found themselves able to respond to larger numbers of requests with fewer servers and serve content more rapidly, the recent NodeDay meet-up at PayPal's HQ in San Jose heard.

node.js is a server-side JavaScript platform that uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model suited to creating data-intensive, real-time applications that run across distributed devices.

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Deals website Groupon has been using node.js servers to handle 50,000 requests a minute from US users, with plenty of headroom to handle the growth in demand after it migrates traffic from the 48 other countries it serves, the conference heard. The company previously used a server-side codebase built on the Ruby on Rails (RoR) web application framework.

The firm reports page load times have decreased by 50 percent and node services are handling the same level of traffic as its RoR server-side software but with less hardware.

Retail giant Walmart said node.js servers drove 53 percent of all of its online traffic during the recent Black Friday sales in the US. "Not a single node server went down" that day, according to the firm, and CPU utilisation on its node servers "hovered around one percent".

Meanwhile, Yahoo has been using node services to handle around between 1,680,000 and 2,000,000 requests per minute. The firm has around 200 developers writing node code, 500 internal node modules and 800 external node modules.

For Yahoo, the biggest advantage that node.js provides is "speed and ease of development".

The conference also heard about PayPal's experience of switching to from Java to node.js to serve the 'Account Overview' section to its users. In performance tests on production hardware, the node.js application responded to requests on average 35 percent faster than the Java alternative, resulting in the same page being served 200ms faster.

PayPal is moving every one of its products and sites to node.js and by the end of 2014 hopes to have all "major experiences" redesigned, and rewritten for the platform.

"By enabling applications to be built in node.js on the server side and DustJS on the front-end we basically made JavaScript our lingua franca for application development," PayPal's senior director of UI engineering Bill Scott wrote in a recent blogpost.

JavaScript is sometimes attacked as being a language whose design makes it difficult to maintain at scale. A couple of talks on the day focused on ways to build large-scale apps and services and keep them maintainable.

Ian Livingstone, VP of engineering for GoInstant, shared how the company had used tooling and policy to tackle the challenges of building maintainable code bases with node.js.

A different approach was taken by nearForm according to founder Richard Rodger, who discussed how to break node.js applications down into many different micro-services, small chunks of code at satisfying a single need.

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Topics: Web development, Data Centers, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Enterprise 2.0


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • Node.js is fast compared to what?

    Is node.js compiled to machine code when used on a server backend? If not I find it hard to believe that it serves pages that fast. I can understand Ruby not being that fast but I would think a compiled backend service based on C/C++, Pascal, Powerbasic etc. should be much faster.
    • Compared to what

      Groupon swapped from a Ruby on Rails application and PayPal from a Java application.
      Nick Heath
    • Speed

      I believe node.js runs on top of Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine, which uses just in time compilation.
      Nick Heath
    • node.js isn't 'fast' ...

      ... its non-blocking IO API's prevent the need to suspend threads while they await IO operations to return/complete. Thus node typically does a better job of handling lots of simultaneous calls than Ruby, Java, etc.

      But node.js is single-threaded and has to parse and execute JavaScript at runtime so tends to perform poorly if it has to execute lots of computationally time consuming code in a single call. If this is necessary, many node shops implement computationally heavy routines in C and call them from node.

      Interestingly, the latest version of .NET/Mono altered it's IO API's to be async-only and C# and F# support explicit intra method asynchrony and multi threading so can perform way better than node.
  • TypeScript

    If node.js continues to take off, then projects like Microsoft's TypeScript stand to benefit as they will really help with developing and maintaining large javascript projects.

    Perhaps Microsoft will even release a node.js competitor that uses the Chakra engine or .Net.
  • really?

    you dont handle 50K request a minute by just using node.js. Number of servers and databases allows you to do that.
  • Depends

    Not all requests need to all the way to the back-end
  • So brain dead filth has replaced garbage...

    with slightly less shitty garbage. Anyone who thinks running JavaPuke on the server should be beaten to death for the betterment of humanity.