I’ve been developing for quite a while and in quite a few languages. Somehow though, I’ve always seemed to fall back to Java when doing my own stuff – maybe partly from habit, partly because it has in my opinion the best open source selection out there, and party because I liked its mix of features and performance.
Specifically though, in the web arena things have been moving fast and furious with new languages, approaches, and methods like RoR, Play!, and Lift (and many others!). While I “get it” regarding the benefits of these frameworks, I never felt the need to give them more than an initial deep dive to see how they work. I nod a few times at their similarities and move on back to plain REST-ful services in Java with Spring, maybe an ORM (i try to avoid them these days), and a JS-rich front-end.
Second was the first hand feedback I got from a friend at Voxer about their success in using and deploying Node.js at real scale (they have a pretty big Node.js deployment).
So I jumped in. In the short time I’ve been using it for some (real) projects, I can say that it’s my new favorite language of choice.
Second is the community and how large its gotten in the short time Node has been around. There are lots of useful open source libraries to use to solve your problems and the quality level is high.
So having said all that, I wanted to share what resources helped me get up to speed in Node.js coming from a Java background.
- Simple “Class” Instantiation – Another good post I read recently. Worth digesting.
- DailyJS’s Node Tutorial – A multipart tutorial for Node on DailyJS’s blog. It’s a great resource and worth going through all the posts.
- Mixu’s Node Book – Not complete, but still worth it. I look forward to reading the future chapters.
- Node Beginner Book – A good starter read.
- How To Node – A blog dedicated to Node.js. Bookmark it.
I felt that going through these was more than enough to give me the push I needed get started. Hopefully it does for you too (thanks to the authors for taking the time to share their knowledge!).
Java is all about open source frameworks. That’s part of why it’s so popular. While Node.js is much newer, lots of people have already done quite a bit of heavy-lifting and have shared their code with the world. Below is what I think is a good mapping of popular Java frameworks to their Node.js equivalents (from what I know so far).
In Java land, most people are familiar with Web MVC frameworks like Spring MVC, Struts, Wicket, and JSF. More recently though, the trend towards client-side JS MVC frameworks like Ember.js (SproutCore) and Backbone.js reduces the required feature-set of some of these frameworks.
Nonetheless, a good comparable Node.js web framework is Express. In a sense, it’s even more than a web framework because it also provides most of the “web server” functionality most Java developers are used to through Tomcat, Jetty, etc (more specifically, Express builds on top of Connect) It’s well thought out and provides the feature set needed to get things done.
Application Lifecycle Framework (DI Framework)
Spring is a popular framework in Java to provide a great deal of glue and abstraction functionality. It allows easy dependency injection, testing, object lifecycle management, transaction management, etc. It’s usually one of the first things I slap into a new project in Java.
Object-Relational Mapping (ORMs)
I have mixed feelings regarding ORMs in general, but it does make your life easier sometimes. There is no shortage of ORM librares for Node.js. Take your pick.
Package Management Tools
Maven is probably most popular build management tool for Java. While it is very flexible and powerful with a wide variety of plug-ins, it can get very cumbersome. Npm is the mainstream package manager for Node.js. It’s light, fast, and useful.
Java has lots of these for sure, jUnit and company as standard. There are also mock libraries, stub libraries, db test libraries, etc. Node.js has quite a few as well. Pick your poison. I see that nodeunit is popular and is similar to jUnit. I’m personally testing Mocha. Testing tools are a more personal and subjective choice, but the good thing is that there definitely are good choices out there.
Java developers have quite a list of choices when choosing a logger library. Commons logging, log4j, logback, and slf4j (wrapper) are some of the more popular ones. Node.js also has a few. I’m currently using winston and have no complaints so far. It has the logging levels, multiple transports (appenders to log4j people), and does it all asynchronously as well.
Hopefully this will help someone save some time when peeking into the world of Node. Good luck!