Understanding Worker Threads in Node.js

Understanding Worker Threads in Node.js

In this article, you can understand Worker Threads, how Node.js is structured and some examples on how to use it

To understand Workers, first, it’s necessary to understand how Node.js is structured.

When a Node.js process is launched, it runs:

  • One process
  • One thread
  • One event loop
  • One JS Engine Instance
  • One Node.js Instance

One process: a process is a global object that can be accessed anywhere and has information about what’s being executed at a time.

One thread: being single-threaded means that only one set of instructions is executed at a time in a given process.

One event loop: this is one of the most important aspects to understand about Node. It’s what allows Node to be asynchronous and have non-blocking I/O, — despite the fact that JavaScript is single-threaded — by offloading operations to the system kernel whenever possible through callbacks, promises and async/await.

One JS Engine Instance: this is a computer program that executes JavaScript code.

One Node.js Instance: the computer program that executes Node.js code.

In other words, Node runs on a single thread, and there is just one process happening at a time in the event loop. One code, one execution, (the code is not executed in parallel). This is very useful because it simplifies how you use JavaScriptwithout worrying about concurrency issues.

The reason it was built with that approach is that JavaScript was initially created for client-side interactions (like web page interactions, or form validation) -- nothing that required the complexity of multithreading.

But, as with all things, there is a downside: if you have CPU-intensive code, like complex calculations in a large dataset taking place in-memory, it can block other processes from being executed. Similarly, If you are making a request to a server that has CPU-intensive code, that code can block the event loop and prevent other requests of being handled.

A function is considered “blocking” if the main event loop must wait until it has finished executing the next command. A “Non-blocking” function will allow the main event loop to continue as soon as it begins and typically alerts the main loop once it has finished by calling a “callback”.

The golden rule: don’t block the event loop, try to keep it running it and pay attention and avoid anything that could block the thread like synchronous network calls or infinite loops.

It’s important to differentiate between CPU operations and I/O (input/output) operations. As mentioned earlier, the code of Node.js is NOT executed in parallel. Only I/O operations are run in parallel, because they are executed asynchronously.

So Worker Threads will not help much with I/O-intensive work because asynchronous I/O operations are more efficient than Workers can be. The main goal of Workers is to improve the performance on CPU-intensive operations not I/O operations.

Some solutions

Furthermore, there are already solutions for CPU intensive operations: multiple processes (like cluster API) that make sure that the CPU is optimally used.

This approach is advantageous because it allows isolation of processes, so if something goes wrong in one process, it doesn’t affect the others. They also have stability and identical APIs. However, this means sacrificing shared memory, and the communication of data must be via JSON.

JavaScript and Node.js will never have threads, this is why:

So, people might think that adding a new module in Node.js core will allow us to create and sync threads, thus solving the problem of CPU-intensive operations.

Well, no, not really. If threads are added, the nature of the language itself will change. It’s not possible to add threads as a new set of available classes or functions. In languages that support multithreading (like Java), keywords such as “synchronized” help to enable multiple threads to sync.

Also, some numeric types are not atomic, meaning that if you don’t synchronize them, you could end up having two threads changing the value of a variable and resulting that after both threads have accessed it, the variable has a few bytes changed by one thread and a few bytes changed by the other thread and thus, not resulting in any valid value. For example, in the simple operation of 0.1 + 0.2 has 17 decimals in JavaScript (the maximum number of decimals).

var x = 0.1 + 0.2; // x will be 0.30000000000000004

But floating point arithmetic is not always 100% accurate. So if not synchronized, one decimal may get changed using Workers, resulting in non-identical numbers.

The best solution:

The best solution for CPU performance is Worker Threads. Browsers have had the concept of Workers for a long time.

Instead of having:

  • One process
  • One thread
  • One event loop
  • One JS Engine Instance
  • One Node.js Instance

Worker threads have:

  • One process
  • Multiple threads
  • One event loop per thread
  • One JS Engine Instance per thread
  • One Node.js Instance per thread

As we can see in the following image:

The worker_threads module enables the use of threads that execute JavaScript in parallel. To access it:

const worker = require('worker_threads');

Worker Threads have been available since Node.js 10, but are still in the experimental phase.

What is ideal, is to have multiple Node.js instances inside the same process. With Worker threads, a thread can end at some point and it’s not necessarily the end of the parent process. It’s not a good practice for resources that were allocated by a Worker to hang around when the Worker is gone-- that’s a memory leak, and we don’t want that. We want to embed Node.js into itself, give Node.js the ability to create a new thread and then create a new Node.js instance inside that thread; essentially running independent threads inside the same process.

What makes Worker Threads special:

  • ArrayBuffers to transfer memory from one thread to another
  • SharedArrayBuffer that will be accessible from either thread. It lets you share memory between threads (limited to binary data).
  • Atomics available, it lets you do some processes concurrently, more efficiently and allows you to implement conditions variables in JavaScript
  • MessagePort, used for communicating between different threads. It can be used to transfer structured data, memory regions and other MessagePorts between different Workers.
  • MessageChannel represents an asynchronous, two-way communications channel used for communicating between different threads.
  • WorkerData is used to pass startup data. An arbitrary JavaScript value that contains a clone of the data passed to this thread’s Worker constructor. The data is cloned as if using postMessage()

API

  • const { worker, parentPort } = require(‘worker_threads’) => The worker class represents an independent JavaScript execution thread and the parentPort is an instance of the message port
  • new Worker(filename) or new Worker(code, { eval: true }) => are the two main ways of starting a worker (passing the filename or the code that you want to execute). It’s advisable to use the filename in production.
  • worker.on(‘message’), worker/postMessage(data) => for listening to messages and sending them between the different threads.
  • parentPort.on(‘message’), parentPort.postMessage(data) => Messages sent using parentPort.postMessage() will be available in the parent thread using worker.on('message'), and messages sent from the parent thread using worker.postMessage() will be available in this thread using parentPort.on('message').

EXAMPLE:

const { Worker } = require('worker_threads');

const worker = new Worker(`
const { parentPort } = require('worker_threads');
parentPort.once('message',
    message => parentPort.postMessage({ pong: message }));  
`, { eval: true });
worker.on('message', message => console.log(message));      
worker.postMessage('ping');  
$ node --experimental-worker test.js
{ pong: ‘ping’ }

Example by Anna Henningsen

What this essentially does is create a new thread using a new Worker, the code inside the Worker is listening for a message on parentPort and once it receives the message, it is going to post the message back to the main thread.

You have to use the --experimental-worker because Workers are still experimental.

Another example:

    const {
      Worker, isMainThread, parentPort, workerData
    } = require('worker_threads');

    if (isMainThread) {
      module.exports = function parseJSAsync(script) {
        return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
          const worker = new Worker(filename, {
            workerData: script
          });
          worker.on('message', resolve);
          worker.on('error', reject);
          worker.on('exit', (code) => {
            if (code !== 0)
              reject(new Error(`Worker stopped with exit code ${code}`));
          });
        });
      };
    } else {
      const { parse } = require('some-js-parsing-library');
      const script = workerData;
      parentPort.postMessage(parse(script));
    }

It requires:

  • Worker: the class that represents an independent JavaScript execution thread.
  • isMainThread: a boolean that is true if the code is not running inside of a Worker thread.
  • parentPort: the MessagePort allowing communication with the parent thread If this thread was spawned as a Worker.
  • workerData: An arbitrary JavaScript value that contains a clone of the data passed to this thread’s Worker constructor.

In actual practice for these kinds of tasks, use a pool of Workers instead. Otherwise, the overhead of creating Workers would likely exceed their benefit.

What is expected for Workers (hopefully):
  • Passing native handles around (e.g. sockets, http request)
  • Deadlock detection. Deadlock is a situation where a set of processes are blocked because each process is holding a resource and waiting for another resource acquired by some other process. Deadlock detention will be useful for Worker threads in this case.
  • More isolation, so if one process is affected, it won’t affect others.
What NOT to expect for Workers:
  • Don’t think Workers make everything magically faster, in some cases is better to use Worker pool
  • Don’t use Workers for parallelizing I/O operations.
  • Don’t think spawning Workers is cheap
Final notes:

The contributors to Workers in Node.js are looking for feedback, if you have used Workers before and want to contribute, you can leave your feedback here

Workers have chrome DevTools support to inspect Workers in Node.js.

And worker_threads is a promising experimental module if you need to do CPU-intensive tasks in your Node.js application. Keep in mind that it’s still experimental, so it is advisable to wait before using it in production. For now, you can use Worker pools instead.

Top 7 Most Popular Node.js Frameworks You Should Know

Top 7 Most Popular Node.js Frameworks You Should Know

Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform, runtime environment that allows developers to run JavaScript outside of a browser. In this post, you'll see top 7 of the most popular Node frameworks at this point in time (ranked from high to low by GitHub stars).

Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform, runtime environment that allows developers to run JavaScript outside of a browser.

One of the main advantages of Node is that it enables developers to use JavaScript on both the front-end and the back-end of an application. This not only makes the source code of any app cleaner and more consistent, but it significantly speeds up app development too, as developers only need to use one language.

Node is fast, scalable, and easy to get started with. Its default package manager is npm, which means it also sports the largest ecosystem of open-source libraries. Node is used by companies such as NASA, Uber, Netflix, and Walmart.

But Node doesn't come alone. It comes with a plethora of frameworks. A Node framework can be pictured as the external scaffolding that you can build your app in. These frameworks are built on top of Node and extend the technology's functionality, mostly by making apps easier to prototype and develop, while also making them faster and more scalable.

Below are 7of the most popular Node frameworks at this point in time (ranked from high to low by GitHub stars).

Express

With over 43,000 GitHub stars, Express is the most popular Node framework. It brands itself as a fast, unopinionated, and minimalist framework. Express acts as middleware: it helps set up and configure routes to send and receive requests between the front-end and the database of an app.

Express provides lightweight, powerful tools for HTTP servers. It's a great framework for single-page apps, websites, hybrids, or public HTTP APIs. It supports over fourteen different template engines, so developers aren't forced into any specific ORM.

Meteor

Meteor is a full-stack JavaScript platform. It allows developers to build real-time web apps, i.e. apps where code changes are pushed to all browsers and devices in real-time. Additionally, servers send data over the wire, instead of HTML. The client renders the data.

The project has over 41,000 GitHub stars and is built to power large projects. Meteor is used by companies such as Mazda, Honeywell, Qualcomm, and IKEA. It has excellent documentation and a strong community behind it.

Koa

Koa is built by the same team that built Express. It uses ES6 methods that allow developers to work without callbacks. Developers also have more control over error-handling. Koa has no middleware within its core, which means that developers have more control over configuration, but which means that traditional Node middleware (e.g. req, res, next) won't work with Koa.

Koa already has over 26,000 GitHub stars. The Express developers built Koa because they wanted a lighter framework that was more expressive and more robust than Express. You can find out more about the differences between Koa and Express here.

Sails

Sails is a real-time, MVC framework for Node that's built on Express. It supports auto-generated REST APIs and comes with an easy WebSocket integration.

The project has over 20,000 stars on GitHub and is compatible with almost all databases (MySQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, Redis). It's also compatible with most front-end technologies (Angular, iOS, Android, React, and even Windows Phone).

Nest

Nest has over 15,000 GitHub stars. It uses progressive JavaScript and is built with TypeScript, which means it comes with strong typing. It combines elements of object-oriented programming, functional programming, and functional reactive programming.

Nest is packaged in such a way it serves as a complete development kit for writing enterprise-level apps. The framework uses Express, but is compatible with a wide range of other libraries.

LoopBack

LoopBack is a framework that allows developers to quickly create REST APIs. It has an easy-to-use CLI wizard and allows developers to create models either on their schema or dynamically. It also has a built-in API explorer.

LoopBack has over 12,000 GitHub stars and is used by companies such as GoDaddy, Symantec, and the Bank of America. It's compatible with many REST services and a wide variety of databases (MongoDB, Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL).

Hapi

Similar to Express, hapi serves data by intermediating between server-side and client-side. As such, it's can serve as a substitute for Express. Hapi allows developers to focus on writing reusable app logic in a modular and prescriptive fashion.

The project has over 11,000 GitHub stars. It has built-in support for input validation, caching, authentication, and more. Hapi was originally developed to handle all of Walmart's mobile traffic during Black Friday.

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A Beginner Guide To Node.js (Basic Introduction To Node.js)

Node.js is a very popular javascript free and open source cross-platform for server-side programming built on Google Chrome’s Javascript V8 Engine. It is used by thousands of developers around the world to develop mobile and web applications. According to StackOverflow survey, Node.js is one of most famous choice for building the web application in 2018.

Introduction

Node.js is a very popular javascript free and open source cross-platform for server-side programming built on Google Chrome’s Javascript V8 Engine. It is used by thousands of developers around the world to develop mobile and web applications. According to StackOverflow survey, Node.js is one of most famous choice for building the web application in 2018.

In this article, you will gain a deep understanding of node, learn how node.js works and why it is so popular among the developers and startups. Not In startup even big companies like eBay, Microsoft, GoDaddy, Paypal etc.

Why is Node.js so much popular

It is fast very fast

It’s a javascript runtime built on google chrome javascript v8 engine which means both node js and js executed in your browser running in the same engine that makes it very fast in comparison to any other server-side programming language.

It uses event-driven and non-blocking model

Node.js uses the event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it very lightweight and efficient.
Now let’s understand the above statement in more details. Here I/O refers to Input /Output.

Event Driven Programming is a paradigm in which control flow of any program is determined by the occurrence of the events. All these events monitor by the code which is known as an event listener. If you are from javascript background then most probably you know what is event-listeners. In short, event-listener is a procedure or function that waits for an event to occurs. In javascript, onload, onclick, onblur most common event-listener.

**Blocking I/O **takes time and hence block other function. Consider the scenario where we want to fetch data from the database for two different users. Here we can not get the data of the second user until we did not complete the first user process. Since javascript is a single threaded and here we would have to start a new thread every time we want to fetch user data. So here Non-Blocking I/O parts come in.

Example of Blocking I/O operation

<span class="hljs-keyword">const</span> fs = <span class="hljs-built_in">require</span>(‘fs’);
<span class="hljs-keyword">var</span> contents = fs.readFileSync(<span class="hljs-string">'package.json'</span>).toString();
<span class="hljs-built_in">console</span>.log(contents);

In** Non-blocking I/O **operations, you can get the user2 data without waiting for the completion of the user1 request. You can initiate both requests in parallel. **Non-blocking I/O **eliminates the need for the multi-threaded, since the system can handle multiple requests at the same time. That is the main reason which makes it very fast.

Example of Non-blocking I/O operation

<span class="hljs-keyword">const</span> fs = <span class="hljs-built_in">require</span>(‘fs’);
fs.readFile(<span class="hljs-string">'package.json'</span>, <span class="hljs-function"><span class="hljs-keyword">function</span> (<span class="hljs-params">err, buf</span>)</span>{
    <span class="hljs-built_in">console</span>.log(buf.toString());
});

Note: You can learn more about the event loop and other things by going through this link.

What is Node Package Manager ( NPM )

It is is the official package manager for the node. It bundles automatically installed when you install node in your system. It is used to install new packages and manage them in useful ways. NPM install packages in two modes local and global. In the local mode, NPM installs packages in the node_module directory of the current working directory which location is owned by current user. Global packages installed in the directory where the node is installed and the location is owned by the root user.

What is the package.json

package.json is a plain JSON text file which manages all the packaged which you installed in your node application. Every Node.js applications should have this file at the root directory to describe the application metadata. A simple package.json file looks like below

{
    <span class="hljs-string">"name"</span> : <span class="hljs-string">"codesquery"</span>,
    <span class="hljs-string">"version"</span> : <span class="hljs-string">"1.0.0"'
    "repository": {
	"type" : "git",
	"url" : "github_repository_url"
    },
    "dependencies": {
	"async": "0.8.0",
	"express": "4.2.x"
    }
}
</span>

In the above file, name and versions are mandatory for the package.json file and rest is optional.

Installing Node.js

  • In Windows, you can install the node.js by using the installer provided by the official node.js website. Follow the installer instruction and node.js will be installed in your windows system.
  • In Linux OS, you can install the node.js by adding the PPA in your system and then install node js. Run the below command the terminal to install node js
sudo apt-get install curl python-software-properties
curl -sL https:<span class="hljs-comment">//deb.nodesource.com/setup_10.x | sudo -E bash -</span>
sudo apt-get install nodejs

  • In macOS, download the macOS installer from the official node.js website. Now run the installer by accepting the license and selecting the destination.

Test Node.js Installation

You can test the node.js installation by typing below command in the terminal

node -v

If node.js was installed successfully then you will see the installed version of the node in the terminal.

Frameworks and Tools

After gaining the popularity among the developers, there are so many frameworks built for the node js for the different type of uses. Here, I will tell you some of the most famous node js frameworks in the market

  • Express.js is the most popular framework for node.js development. A lot of popular websites is powered by express.js due to its lightweight.
  • Hapi.js is a powerful and robust framework for developing the API. This framework has features like input validation, configuration based functionality, error handling, caching and logging.
  • Metor.js is one of the most used frameworks in the node js web application development. This framework is backed by a huge community of developers, tutorials and good documentation.
  • Socket.io is used to build a real-time web application like chat system and analytics. Its allow the bi-direction data flow between the web client and server.
  • Koa.js is yet another most used framework to build the web application using the node js. This framework is backed by the team behind Express.js. It allows you to ditch callbacks and increase error handling.

Conclusion

Today, Node.js shaping the future of web and application development technology. This is the just the basic of how node js works. If you want to build a scalable web application using the node js then you need to know more then this.

Till now, you have got the basic idea of node.js and now it is time to build something using the node.js. You can start with first by create a simple server using the node.js and then connect your node with MongoDB to perform the basic crud operation.