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In a certain sense, Node has much in common with other popular web servers, such as Internet Information Services (IIS) created by Microsoft or Apache HTTP server. But it is far more interesting to know what differences it has, so let’s start with this.

 

Similarly to Express, the Node approach to web servers is extremely minimalistic. Unlike IIS or Apache, which are not so simple and sometimes it may take many years to master them, Node is very easy to install and configure. This does not mean that it is trivial to tune Node servers for maximum performance in real operating conditions; just configuration options are simpler and clearer to set up.

 

Another basic difference between Node and more traditional Web servers is that Node is single-threaded by nature. At first glance this may seem like a step backward. But it turns out to be a brilliant idea. Single-threading greatly simplifies the task of writing web applications, and if you need good multi-threaded performance, you can simply run more Node instances and, practically speaking, get the benefits of multithreading. A forward-looking reader is likely to consider this as some kind of shamanism. After all, is not the implementation of multithreading using server-side parallelism (in contrast to application parallelism) simply shifting complexity to a different place instead of eliminating it? Perhaps, but the experience shows that the complexity is moved and placed exactly where it should be. Moreover, with the growing popularity of cloud computing and treating servers as conventional products, this approach becomes much more reasonable. Without doubt IIS and Apache are powerful web servers, and they are designed to squeeze out the last drop of the performance from the latest powerful hardware. This, however, has its price: to achieve such efficiency and to install and configure these servers employees need to be highly qualified.

 

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When it comes to the way applications are written, Node applications are more like PHP or Ruby applications than .NET or Java applications. The JavaScript engine used by Node (V8, developed by Google) not only compiles JavaScript into internal machine code (like C or C ++), but also does it in a transparent manner, so from the user’s point of view the code behaves like a pure interpreted programming language. The absence of a separate compilation step reduces the complexity of maintenance and deployment: simply update the JavaScript file and your changes will automatically become available.

 

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