- It’s lightweight – The memory footprint for a node instance is relatively minuscule vs. a traditional php or asp application. Web servers like Apache or IIS spool up a separate OS thread for each connection made to the server, consuming much more memory. Node.js uses a shared thread so it can handle a small number of concurrent connections with much less memory than Apache and the like (note: for large scale concurrency that fact goes out the window).
- It’s optimized – Since your node application handles http requests itself you can build a no-frills web server that is built specifically for your needs instead of running a full featured instance of Apache or IIS. Things you don’t need aren’t there.
- It’s fast – For lean, non-cpu intensive tasks it’s ohmigawd fast! It can handle tens of thousands of concurrent connections and the response times are fantastic.
So, about that conference… The organizer for the conference was Joyent. That was no surprise since Joyent is a principal backer for the Node.js open source project. Ryan Dahl, the creator of Node.js works at Joyent. What was a bit surprising was that the catalyst for bringing the conference together was the venture capital firm El Dorado Ventures (Yes, Joyent is in El Dorado’s portfolio). In fact, the VC’s seemed to get about as much stage time as the computer nerds here.
Many of the presentations were from large businesses showing how they were using Node.js in production. Representatives from eBay, Walmart, Yahoo, EMC, LinkedIn, Rackspace and Voxer were all on stage at one point or another and spoke on how they are using Node.js in their business operations. It was reassuring to see that these large organizations were taking the plunge.
One of the most impressive presentations was from Joyent’s own Bryan Cantrill, one of the designers of DTrace. Bryan is a great presenter (his pace and energy wiped away the post-lunch malaise) and his performance visualization graphs were very cool. I’m hoping the videos are up soon so I can share it with you. Bryan’s a lot of fun to watch.
The second day was dominated by presentations from NodeJam participants. Each of these fledgling startups was given 5 minutes to present their business and be judged by a panel of venture capitalist (along with the audience). The winning startup was quizlet.com. Andrew Sutherland, quizlet’s founder, flat-out killed it with his presentation. His demonstration which included audience participation in a large, collaborative online game went off flawlessly. As the number of audience participants in the game rapidly grew Sutherland quipped “I guess we’ll see if it scales!”. It did. The successful demo coupled with his likable stage presence (and his wizard hat) helped Quizlet beat out other, arguably more deserving companies. The lesson here is that despite what they say, VC’s really do care about the quality of the demo as much or more than the long term potential of a product.
NodeJammers That Caught Our Eye
expense.cat – A utility app for your mobile device for tracking business expenses. Simply take a picture of the receipt and have it submitted into a report you can generate later. I have to admit that I was fumbling around with a wallet full of expense receipts right as this presentation happened so my objectivity was skewed but hey, I’d use it. They still have some bugs to work out, but it looks like a good idea (expense.cat).
Geekli.st – Geeklist is an “achievement based social portfolio builder”. In short, developers can hand out “cards” to other developers to thank or congratulate them for a task they have accomplished. It’s intended to be used as a social tool for developers and a recruiting tool for those looking to hire. (geekli.st).
Hall.com – If you are mourning the loss of Google Wave (like we are) then hall.com may be just what you need. There are still some UI issues and it is clearly a work in progress, but it looks very promising overall. It boasts an interface that is arguably easier and more intuitive than Google Wave. With integrated video and chat it could prove even more efficient for moderately sized projects that require a lot of collaboration (like websites). (hall.com)
MapBox - Google Maps are great. MapBox maps are better. In particular we like the ability to use your own tile designs in a much simpler way than with Google Maps. Check out some of these gorgeous examples. A very nice application with a lot of potential. This is another product I can see finding its way into the work we do. (mapbox.com)
Observe.it - We’ve seen a product exactly like this in the past (we even used that other product in production). It allows you to track user behaviors in real time. Some people might call this spying. We call it research. The observe.it implementation is leaner and more performant than what we’ve seen in the past and it won the Node Knockout 2011 competition. It has interesting potential as a support tool as well a research tool for our designers and information architects. (observe.it)
Rumgr – If you think eBay is a pain in the butt, then Rumgr is for you. Simply take a picture of that “whatever” you have in your garage and it is tagged with your location and posted on the Rumgr site. Listing are sorted by proximity and people “rummage” through nearby listings for things they want (or don’t know they want). You can add details to your listing but it’s not necessary. Rumgr falls somewhere between Craigslist and Freecycle and looks more promising than both. (rumgr.com)
Safer Aging – Safer Aging’s plan is to provide a monitoring system that is installed in a seniors residence and will notify others when there is anomalous activity (or lack of activity). It will use motion sensors, pill-box sensors and (optionally) cameras to keep track of what is going on. When something out of the ordinary is detected, customers can be notified via text, email and phone. (saferaging.com)
SimTable – I have to confess, SimTable has absolutely no application to anything we do here at BrandExtract, but it was very, very cool. Their product is a sand table (literally a box of sand on a table) that can be used to simulate disaster scenarios (volcanoes, floods, wildfires, etc) in real time. Using projectors to display directly on the sand and cameras to gather input from the table and users information can be projected onto a simulated terrain of the disaster area. In the spirit of a picture being worth a thousands words, stop reading and check out the demo video. (simtable.com)
Storify – A Tumblr’esque service that gives users the ability to combine entries from various social network feeds into a single annotated “story”. Check out this account of NodeSummit on Storify which includes a quote from our own Carter Cole. (storify.com).
In addition to the main stage presentations there were a couple of break out session during lunch on both days. The introduction to Nodejitsu was of particular interest to us. System reliability is critical for live web apps and since Node.js is fairly new and applications built with Node rely on fewer proven systems it’s important to have a smooth process for managing deployments and monitoring uptime. Nodejitsu provides tools for this and more. One of the many interesting offerings from Nodejitsu is Flatiron. Technically an open source project backed by Nodejitsu and not their product per se, Flatiron is an open source web site framework which handles many of the most common featured required for a full web site. (nodejitsu.com).
The other breakout session we found interesting was for ql.io from eBay. To quote their website ql.io is :A declarative, data-retrieval and aggregation gateway for quickly consuming HTTP APIs”. In short it’s a DSL for making queries to disparate back ends that return data in various formats (SOAP, XML, JSON, etc) and performing complex, compound queries on those aggregated results. We saw some shortcomings in what’s initially available (caching and rate limiting are obvious necessities), but we were excited nonetheless. Look for a post from Carter on ql.io in the near future.