JavaScript enters the server room with Node.js

Here's what to expect from the hot new server-side framework that promises to deliver highly scalable apps on the cheap

A browser mainstay for more than a decade, JavaScript has been gaining traction on the server side as of late, thanks to increasing developer interest in Node.js. This open source server-side framework allows Web developers to write event-driven JavaScript applications that run on Google's open source V8 JavaScript engine.

No doubt, some of your developers are already experimenting with this tool. And while Node.js is still early in its adoption lifecycle, JavaScript's transition from the browser to the server is sure to accelerate. After all, its prospects are impressive. Take Jackalope, for example. Built in less than 48 hours during the Joyent-sponsored Node.js knockout competition, Jackalope provides real-time Web statistics on mouse movements and clicks on a website, scaling alonside the number of users who visit a given Web page.

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With Node.js recently gaining HP/Palm's endorsement due to its inclusion in webOS 2.0, it's high time to learn what to expect from Node.js and how to make the best use of it in the enterprise.

Empowering less experienced developers to build more scalable apps
Node.js holds the promise of enabling less experienced, potentially lower-cost developers to create more scalable Web applications than they can build today with existing skill sets. Here, the framework's asynchronous nature is key, as described on the Node.js website:

Thread-based networking is relatively inefficient and very difficult to use. ... Node will show much better memory efficiency under high-loads than systems which allocate 2mb thread stacks for each connection. Furthermore, users of Node are free from worries of dead-locking the process -- there are no locks. Almost no function in Node directly performs I/O, so the process never blocks. Because nothing blocks, less-than-expert programmers are able to develop fast systems.

The ubiquity of AJAX in the modern Web developer's skill set provides a sufficiently large developer base from which to draw for the building of Node.js event-driven apps. Anyone who has been exposed to JavaScript programming at the presentation layer can now write server-side scripts, regardless of whether they are already familiar with PHP, Ruby, Python, Java, and the like.

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