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Ruby on Rails vs. Node.js + Express: Which One is Best?


If you’ve ever researched app or website development technologies, it goes without saying that you are no stranger to Ruby on Rails and Node.js + Express; two of the best frameworks available. Many an argument has been waged to decide which one is better than the other but this fundamental reasoning is flawed. Instead, the question should be: which framework is the best tool for the task at hand?

To help you gain some insight concerning this question, consider the following pros and cons for both Ruby on Rails and Node.JS.

Pros of Ruby on Rails

● Database migrations: They come in really handy and their value cannot be denied.

● Opinionated framework: One of the best things about Ruby is its uniformity. For example, if you have to work on someone else’s application, you won’t have to waste time figuring out how it works. This is one of the biggest reasons that this framework is perfect for projects where a large team is needed or if it has to be handed off to somebody else after being built.

● The language: Ruby is expressive and very powerful, which makes it easy to express application logic in an intuitive manner.

Cons of Ruby on Rails

● Huge stack frames: Ruby contains multiple layers of abstraction, which makes debugging a hassle. For instance, if the database happens to fail and the error message is less than forthcoming, you will have to dig through ActiveSupport, WEBrick, Rack, ActiveRecord, Mongoid, and more to get to the root of the problem.

● Opinionated framework: Instead of using your time to get things done, you’ll find that a lot of it will be spent trying to figure out how the framework wants you to perform certain tasks.

● Sporadic performance: Ruby isn’t the fastest framework, which may affect the end users experience. Instead of taking you where you need to go instantly, it tends to take a few seconds for pages to load.

Pros of Node.JS

● Full stack: From templating Engine to HTTP server, it’s safe to say that Node is as versatile as it gets. Because of its many capabilities, many say that this framework is the total package.

● WebSockets: WebSockets and Node have a symbiotic relationship. This is because JavaScript was designed to handle asynchronous requests like the ones in WebSockets.

● Ecosystem: Being new isn’t always a plus, but Node has hit a virtual sweet spot. This framework’s relatively short lifetime means that its community-driven libraries are new, and thus better maintained, as well. But, it’s also important to note that, Node has been around long enough to have a comprehensive library that helps developers do amazing things.

● Package Management: There’s no denying it — gem doesn’t hold a candle to npm. Take dependencies, for example, these tend to be installed locally instead of globally, no matter how the Node installation was set up.

● Powerful libraries: Libuv, the incredibly fast and very awesome library behind Node, is responsible for handling non-blocking I/O. If your application must interact at a low-level with other processes on the machine, you can’t go wrong with Node.

Cons of Node.JS

● Maintainability: Due to Node’s lack of an opinionated framework, it’s really hard for another developer to come in and finish a project that was started by a colleague (hard but not impossible!).

● Memory management: The garbage collector for the Node framework is V-8. If the application runs a memory intensive operation, where the garbage collector is activated, it will block the thread and npm will cause everyone’s performance to suffer. This can be a problem on machines with limited resources, like the ones found on shared hosts.

● Error handling: The whole application will crash if an exception is thrown. In order to alleviate this problem, you will have to rely on a daemon, like Forever, to begin the process anew.

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