The use of back-end development frameworks is growing at an exponential rate. Business leaders are now using these frameworks to leverage several benefits, such as lower development costs, increased productivity, and easy debugging. As a result, many major companies, such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google, are now using these development frameworks to improve their server-side processing.
Choosing a back-end framework for your business can be arduous since there are many strong contenders in the market. However, two of them stand out: Node.js and Ruby on Rails (ROR). So let’s have a look at both of them.
Node.js is a command line runtime environment for server-side programming. It is one of the most used web development frameworks in the market that allows you to share code between the front end and back end. It uses an event-driven I/O model for handling multiple browser operations simultaneously.
All functions built on Node.js are asynchronous, which means they get processed in the background without blocking each other. You can use this framework with different network protocols, such as HTTP and TCP.
In Node.js, the modules are called through the require() function. You can also create your own modules and call them within the main program. The keyword export is used to bring methods outside your module.
The modules are managed by the Node.js package manager (NPM). The HTTP module is used for data transfer. It can listen to different ports and reply back if required. Once called, it searches the file system (through a variable call) and replies back to the server. It can also create, read and modify fields as required by the user. These changes are done via events.
Node.js Events are fired via objects before opening and closing a file. The event module creates, fires, and listens to custom events. The method emit() is used to fire events.
Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails (ROR) is a server-side web development framework built on Ruby. This model-view-controller (MVC) framework is ideal for startups and small businesses looking to build a minimum-viable product. It uses conventional coding patterns such as DRY and COC and is the perfect choice for startups looking to quickly bring their product to market.
Ruby on Rails was developed by David Hansson under the MIT license in 2004. It provides a default structure for creating web services, database connections, and UI components.
This framework separates the code into three components — model, view, and controller. The model stores the business logic, the controller manages the flow of the application, and the view takes care of the front end. The MVC architecture allows users to separate information and code for development.
This framework lets you directly deploy your code on the production environment through the command line. You can also make it a part of your CI/CD pipeline for automatic deployment.
The controller is the heart of ROR and manages the internal actions of the ROR applications. It routes external requests and creates caches for performance improvements. It also handles the integration between UI and user sessions. The external requests are managed via a routing module that works along with a web server/routing server.
Users can also use RoR active records for creating interactive database queries. It is a relational mapping layer that maps classes to rows and columns. In addition, it can be used to create internal initiative binding for database manipulation. The general model command is used to create active records.
ROR creates internal directory structures for its components without user intervention. This is called Scaffolding. It also automatically creates the conventional aspects of ROR applications, such as views and controllers, in a standard format.
The app controller and helper directories are used to organize the application’s controller code. The layout and view directories house the code for the front end, and the config directory has properties such as database configuration, environment structure, and request rerouting information.
ROR typically creates three databases for development, testing, and production. You can set configurations using the Root ID and password in the database.yml file. In addition, you can use Rail migration support options to change your database schema from the frontend UI.
Writing code in ROR is very simple. It is similar to writing instructions in English and hence easy to do. Furthermore, ROR also uses metaprogramming, i.e., it allows developers to write programs that write their own classes and methods. This is all done without user intervention and dynamically.
However, it is a bit rigid in use and doesn’t allow you to change certain conventional attributes of its infrastructure. It follows the Convention over the configuration rule. However, many extensive resources and tutorials are available online on how to best manipulate the framework for your requirements.
Let’s have a look at how Node.js and Ruby on Rails differ.
Similarly, even though you can use any relational and nonrelational database with Ruby on Rails, it is partial toward SQLite. It is the default database for the framework and has built-in support for it. All database queries in ROR are written on Ruby and converted to database queries by the active record library.
Ease of Learning
Even though ROR is easy to use, there are certain design attributes that you need to understand before implementing any methods. This slows the development process since you need to conform to a fixed development style. However, there are many resources available online that beginner can use to start coding.
The learning curve for Node.js is less steep compared to Ruby on Rails. In addition, there are a lot of resources (tutorials and support groups) available online that novice developers can use for debugging their applications.
Ruby on Rails is not a very flexible framework. Even though it is very useful for building MVPs through standardized templates and ready-made modules, adding custom features to the build takes a lot of time and effort. The framework provides a lot of “batteries included” functionality that allows developers to generate boilerplate features quickly, without spending a lot of time on code and methodology.
Node.js is very flexible in terms of module development and deployment. There are many out-of-the-box features you can use to write your custom module. Furthermore, by combining JSON with Node.js, you can easily exchange information between the front end and back end.
ROR is more difficult to install than Node.js, since you must also install its dependencies and generators. You can install it through a package manager or use a source ruby module. Along with the framework, you also have to download SQL Express (for database connection), Visual Studio (for coding), and local IIS home setup (to run and display your UI on your local machine). Developers also have to make sure that the configuration files (database yml and environment files) are added correctly.
Node.js is relatively easy to install via NPM. It can be installed directly via the command line using the .msi and .pkg installation files. You can also use NPM to manage and update different versions of Node.js. Setting up an NPM account is easy, and you can also link it to your GitHub account.
Node.js’s event-driven, non-blocking I/O architecture allows it to easily scale applications through load balancing and Redis. You can also break your application into microservices, which are easier to maintain and implement.
Ruby on Rails uses caching and modularity for improved scalability. It focuses more on horizontal scaling rather than vertical scaling. It’s also thread-safe, which means multiple threads can read/write a memory object without inconsistency errors.
Node.js uses a fast V8 engine to perform tasks concurrently. Its single-threaded architecture allows different components to communicate asynchronously. As a result, applications built on Node.js are highly performant and robust. Many popular organizations, such as Netflix, Uber, and Paypal, use Node.js to improve their efficiency and responsiveness.
Ruby on Rails is a very fast and lightweight framework known for its ability to create amazing products quickly. Even though it is slower than Node.js, it is the perfect choice for businesses looking to create real-time applications with heavy graphics and images. This framework is widely known for its coding efficiency and high speed of development.
Ease of code deployment
Applications developed on ROR are easy to build and deploy. You can also integrate it with popular CI/CD platforms such as Jenkins, TeamCity, and CircleCI and use them for automatic deployment. These platforms can quickly generate builds and deploy them in the test environment. Users can also deploy ROR applications on cloud platforms such as AWS and Google Cloud.
Node.js applications can sometimes be difficult to deploy. This is because they need to integrate to other applications, such as debuggers and code monitors, to identify error events and exceptions. Uncaught exceptions can also cause out-of-memory errors, which can terminate the application.
The front-end application code is present in the public/assets folder of the ROR applications. Once you have added your code in this directory, the server will run sprockets and compile the code. You can then render the view on the UI. You can also change other compilation assets using this directory, such as the 404 error page.
Node.js is the most used web development framework in the world. As per this survey, 47.12 % of the surveyed users said they used Node.js for their development. It is highly flexible, can be hosted to the cloud and allows users the flexibility to change project components as required. It is also highly extensible, i.e., its inherent properties can be easily extended using libraries and packages.
ROR is not so popular, and only 5.8% of users say they use ROR for their projects. Even though it can be hosted on the cloud and has amazing MVP development attributes, its rigid development style doesn’t provide users the flexibility to create applications in their own style. Moreover, even though developers can use Ruby gems to extend functionality, they are difficult to install and maintain. Hence it becomes difficult to refactor ROR code, which is essential for creating and maintaining full-fledged applications.
This is why even though ROR was once the most in-demand platform in the market, its popularity has greatly reduced in recent years.
The cost of development for a software project depends on the complexity of application design, development methodology, and platform licensing fees. Project managers also consider the development team’s experience and the cost of hiring talent while creating the project budget.
This is in contrast to ROR, which is built on Ruby. Experienced Ruby developers are hard to find, which can drive up the development cost. Most businesses these days use outsourcing partners/vendors to find Ruby specialists/architects to drive their projects.
Furthermore, ROR projects are more resource intensive than Node.js. The cost of hosting ROR applications is much more than the cost of hosting Node.js applications, since you also need to install a Ruby interpreter on your server. This also increases the cost of maintaining the application. However, for creating Node.js applications, you only have to install Node.Js on your server.
There are many third-party testing tools available in the market for testing Node.js applications. Developers can use automated (Mocha, Jest) and manual (Assert) tools to test Node.js applications. You can also use its built-in libraries for test automation.
Testing Ruby on Rails applications is very easy since testing is intrinsically built into the framework. You can also use third-party tools such as Minitest and Capybara for test benchmarking and mocking. In addition, the framework automatically builds the skeleton test code for your changes, allowing developers to run their tests on the testing environment without compromising the production setup.
Both Node.js and ROR are highly used platforms and have been used by many businesses for product development. ROR is used by companies such as Github, SlideShare, And Airbnb.
Node.Js is also very popular and has many use cases in the real world. For example, popular websites such as Twitter, Netflix, and Trello use Node.js for their backend.
Both these frameworks have a huge community of experienced developers. Their communities can help beginners understand framework components and provide solutions to common issues. You can also use the documentation and contributions created by other developers to develop your project.
So Which One Should You Choose?
Node.js versus Ruby on Rails is a highly debated topic among web developers. Node.js and Ruby on Rails are both highly popular web development frameworks. Both have amazing back-end capabilities and diverse use cases. In addition, plenty of online resources are available for both of these frameworks.
Both frameworks have their own pros and cons. Hence, for best results, you need to check your existing infrastructure and business requirements. You should also understand your budget and time constraints before making a decision. Understanding your business requirements is an indispensable first step that will help you make an informed business decision.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Taylor, Business Development Manager at BairesDev
Chris is a Business Development Manager at BairesDev, in charge of improving and growing relationships with customers, suppliers, and other partners. His knack for strategic planning makes him a great team leader with valuable reach across all areas of the business.
Chris combines his experience in sales, business, and technology to write intriguing articles for BairesDev’s blog and other reputable media outlets. He has nearly 20 years of experience in the IT industry working in various capacities.