The Node Summit, which focuses on Node.js for two days in late January, is packed with attendees, both of the suit-wearing and code-crunching variety. This first-ever conference on Node.js is bringing together these two sides of the Node.js coin for the first time.
Typically, most audiences with laptops open during conference talks are just Facebooking, checking work e-mail or IMing their friends. At even the geekiest of conferences, the most complex tasks you’ll see on audience screens is the IRC back-channel. At Node Summit, everyone except for the suits is coding. One attendee explained by asking a question of the initial talks: “Where’s the code?”
Enterprises move to adopt
Baz Khuti, CTO and vice president of engineering at Avocent Products and Services (a division of Emerson Network Power), said that he’s pushing Node.js inside his company’s offices around the world. He sees it as the future.
“We have deployed it to our universal management gateway, and we’re globally training our developers on it,” he said. “I just got back from India where I trained 200 developers, and took them through what Node is, what it means. I want our developers imagining what this technology could mean, and spread that word around our 72 divisions at Emerson.”
But Khuti also said that Node.js is still lacking in some areas, mainly the lack of community and enterprise interaction. And this is precisely the topic that Node Summit focused on: bringing enterprises and the Node community together.
“These are huge organizations, with a lot of physical infrastructure out there, so having communities which are focused on machine-to-machine usage of Node.js, and sharing best practices, or building out our libraries that can be reused by developers going forward, in this space, is something which has yet to take off. The community around machine-to-machine industrial automation companies has yet to emerge,” said Khuti.
John McKinley, CTO of News Corp., said that Node is just getting started. “The community thrives when there is a large addressable space of use cases,” he said, intimating that he hoped the community would take more direction queues from the enterprise user base. Indeed, a number of the talks at this summit seemed to be focused on encouraging the Node.js community to address problems inside enterprises.
The Node community is thriving and capable of helping with those enterprise problems, said Chris Allen, CEO of Brass Monkey, a company that builds mobile games with Node.js. Of those enterprise IT challenges, he said, “I think they’re incredibly sexy. You can do so many cool things with [Node.js], people need to come up with these new use cases that will change the world.”
Node.js is still growing, but it is this energetic growth that Walmart.com’s Dion Almaer, vice president of mobile architecture, and Ben Galbraith, vice president of mobile engineering, find so appealing about using Node.js in an enterprise.
Said Galbraith of the appeal of Node.js to Walmart: “I think a big part of our success is the talent. At Walmart, we have huge challenges to solve, which is part of the appeal of working here. But we had to have a platform that really energized people and gave us access to some of the best people in the industry. To be able to go out and offer people the opportunity to work in Node at this scale has really been a great ingredient for us to attract top talent.”
And Node.js has enabled them to build just such an application for Walmart. Using Node.js, they and a team of about two dozen Node.js developers have built an application that allows customers to use the Internet to enhance their shopping experiences at Walmart.
“When we were talking to Walmart (as consultants), we talked to people all the way up to the CEO about how important mobile is,” said Galbraith. “With mobile, customers are bringing the Internet into the store with them. We can finally bridge the gap between online and offline sales.”
Working on the Web
Another company that’s built its product in Node.js is Cloud9. The startup recently opened NodeManual.org, a site filled with information about developing with Node.js. Ruben Daniels, CEO of Cloud9, said that Node.js’ community is quite different from previously influential language-based uprisings.
“The Node.js community is very different from Java,” he said. “Java has these huge libraries and frameworks that you either use or you don’t. Node has taken the Unix or Linux approach of having small modules you can reuse, and these are posted on GitHub. People are mixing and matching these modules, and the popular ones get well maintained. There’s a problem with so many libraries, though: People have duplicated efforts. But they’ve all done it a bit differently, and that has to do with the youth of Node.js.”
No matter what languages and services are used alongside it, Node.js is undeniably emerging as a hot new ecosystem for systems engineers. Said Daniels, “For us, there’s definitely a market. We’re targeting Node.js developers, and we care mostly about developers using our tool, not about them paying us money at all. We want to build the best tool, and we feel if we get enough eyeballs the business model will come later. Looking at the growth and what we expect from Node.js, I think Node.js will be bigger than Ruby on Rails. The Node.js community will probably will reach the size of the PHP community, or larger.”