Node.js vs Ruby on Rails: What to Choose in 2023?

Oleksandr Hutsulyak
Team Lead & Senior Front-End Engineer at TechMagic. Member of Solution Architecture Group. Passionate about JavaScript and AWS.
Node.js vs Ruby on Rails: What to Choose in 2023?

To help you make a choice between the two, we share our experience of working with Ruby on Rails vs Node.js, all advantages, and disadvantages, spotted by the team. By the end of the guide, you’ll be able to tell which one fits your project best — Node.js or Ruby on Rails.

When deciding on a frontend technology for your website, choosing the tech stack isn’t too difficult — CSS, HTML5, and JavaScript are the obvious choices. Backend technology, on the other hand, is a lot more versatile. Lately, Node.js and Ruby on Rails are becoming the leading backend languages.

To help you choose between the two, we share our experience of working with Ruby on Rails vs Node.js and all benefits and drawbacks spotted by the team. We’ll also talk about use cases and practical applications. By the end of the guide, you can tell which fits your project best — Node.js or Ruby on Rails.

Background and Purpose of Node.js and Ruby on Rails

Node.js is not a language, but a runtime environment that lets users convert client-side code to server-side. Node converts JavaScript into machine code that can be easily processed by the hardware. The framework is based on Chrome V8 Engine. It’s one of the fast engines out there, which contributes to runtime’s high conversion speed.

Ruby on Rails is a website development framework. Rails are created to help manage routine, internal logic, data computing, etc. Ruby on Rails is known for its code efficiency and high speed. What takes dozens of lines in Java can be done on Ruby with 5-10 lines.

Let’s compare Ruby on Rails vs Node.js.

Advantages of Node.js

advantages of node.js vs ruby on rails

Whether you're comparing Nodejs vs Ruby on Rails for your next web project or simply looking to understand the strengths of Node.js, read on to learn why Node.js has become a popular choice among developers.

Scalability

Node.js is known for its excellent scalability due to its event-driven, non-blocking I/O model. This allows Node.js to handle many concurrent connections efficiently, making it ideal for building applications that require high performance and can handle many users simultaneously.

Fast Performance

Node.js is built on Google's V8 JavaScript engine, which compiles JavaScript code to machine code for faster execution. Comparing Ruby on rails vs Javascript this makes Node.js one of the fastest server-side JavaScript platforms available. It is well-suited for applications that require real-time data processing, such as chat applications or online gaming.

Large Community

Node.js has a large and active community of developers contributing to its open-source ecosystem. This means that there are a plethora of libraries, modules, and tools available for Node.js, making it easier and faster to develop complex applications.

Flexibility

Node.js follows a modular approach, allowing developers to create reusable and modular code. This makes it easier to maintain and update applications, as well as collaborate with other developers. Node.js also supports microservices architecture, allowing developers to build complex applications as a collection of small, loosely coupled services, which can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently.

Cross-platform сompatibility

Node.js is cross-platform compatible, meaning it can run on various operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux. This makes it highly flexible and suitable for deployment on different hosting platforms, including cloud-based services such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, among others.

Where is It Better to Use Node.js?

Node.js is a command-line environment that allows running the same JS code you write for the front end. It allows sharing code with the backend and browser and handling multiple operations simultaneously. Let’s see how these advantages are useful in different aspects of web application development.

Server-side development

Node is good at establishing reliable communication between the server and the browser. It uses a long-polling technique that allows applications to handle multiple incoming requests simultaneously. Node.js doesn’t wait for all queries to be processed to start handling new incoming ones.

This makes Node.js well-suited to real-time apps: messengers, online games, real-time collaboration platforms, and chatrooms. The possibility of using JavaScript both at the frontend and backend will make development faster and easier. If you previously worked with JS, learning Node.js for the backend will not be a problem.

API development

Node.js is a go-to language for REST API development. Representational State Transfer — this is what REST stands for. It’s an architecture that allows users to get output to their web requests quickly. The basic principles of REST development are to be uniform, stateless, client-server, have a layered system, offer a cacheable architecture, and respond on demand.

REST APIs are incredibly practical in web development. Whenever a user is looking for something, a web app uses REST API to deliver source results. REST APIs connect the user’s input to the software’s code, opening a channel for communication. Node.js, with its fast request processing speed and JS tech stack, is an obvious first choice for REST API development.

Microservices

Node.js’ architecture fits perfectly with the structure of microservices. Its non-blocking request-processing algorithms and event-driven approach allow us to connect multiple services and process hundreds of internal requests simultaneously. Microservices need to communicate all the time, which is why ensuring fast data processing is highly important.

Both microservice architecture and Node.js focus on speed and efficiency. The entire point of a microservice architecture is to let developers build well-performing and scalable platforms by breaking functionality into manageable services. Node.js helps bring this to life with a fast V8 engine and non-blocking processing.

Companies that use Node.js

Companies switch to Node.js because of its performance and responsiveness. LinkedIn, Uber, Medium, New York Times, and Hapi currently use Node.js. For some companies, a transition to Node.js is coupled with a switch to the microservice architecture.

For instance, Netflix decentralized its web platform and used Node.js as the main backend tool. This led to the app’s bigger scalability and responsiveness PayPal’s development team did a similar thing. The company used Node during prototyping and development — and the team reports an incredible increase in the team’s efficiency and app’s performance speed.

Challenges with Node.js

Node.js is by no means a perfect backend tool. JavaScript is still a front-end tool not adapted to certain aspects of server-side development. By design, it’s not suited for backend functionality. Node.js has to compensate for JS’s inability to work on the server side and, as a result, offers a somewhat limited experience — here’s why.

Processor-consuming tasks for Node.js applications

Node.js is a single-thread language, which means it will process one request at a time unless you develop them up as a series of an event. When we are talking about fast operations, Node.js executes them quickly. However, when discussing time-consuming functions, Node does not treat it as an event. A single long-term operation will block all the others.

Such an approach leads to high CPU consumption and a dramatic decrease in speed. So, many Node.js advantages are relevant as soon as you don’t overburden the app with consuming tasks. When you cross that line, Node.js loses many of its positives.

Security issues are difficult to tackle

If we compare Ruby vs Node, the last one is known for its large ecosystem with the open-source package management system that provides developers with reusable code, plugins, and add-ons, increasing the versatility of the application.

Node.js are full of npm packages — using ready components saves time and potentially improves the code quality. However, not all teams understand the dangers associated with npm packages. The problem is the Node.js team only recently began scanning modules for security issues. Many of the current npm packages, which include tough-cookie, js.dom, and others, have dependencies, vulnerabilities, and room for potential security threats.

Advantages of Ruby on Rails

ruby on rails vs node.js advantages

While Node.js is known for its scalable and high-performance JavaScript runtime, Ruby on Rails is a mature web framework written in Ruby that has been widely used for building web applications. In this section, we will explore the advantages of using Ruby on Rails for server-side development, including its convention-over-configuration approach, extensive libraries, and developer-friendly features.

Let’s dive in to quicked choose Ruby on Rails or Node js.

Convention-over-configuration approach

Ruby on Rails follows the principle of convention over configuration, meaning developers do not have to spend excessive time configuring files and directories. Rails come with conventions that simplify the development process, making it faster and more efficient in comparison to Node vs Rails.

Extensive libraries and gems

Ruby on Rails has a rich ecosystem of libraries and gems (Ruby's package manager) that can be easily integrated into Rails applications. This allows developers to leverage existing code and solutions, saving time and effort in building complex features.

Developer-friendly features

With solid experience in the development Ruby vs Node js, Ruby on Rails provides a clean and elegant syntax, making the code easy to read and write. Rails also include built-in features for common tasks such as authentication, routing, and testing, which speed up the development process and promote best practices.

Rapid application development (RAD)

Ruby on Rails is known for its rapid application development (RAD) capabilities, allowing developers to build applications quickly and efficiently. Rails' scaffolding feature generates boilerplate code, making it easy to create models, views, and controllers with minimal effort.

Full-stack framework

Ruby on Rails is a full-stack web framework, providing everything needed to build both the front-end and back-end of a web application. This makes it easy to develop end-to-end web applications with a single framework, reducing the need for multiple tools or libraries.

Where Is It Preferable to Use Ruby on Rails?

Ruby on Rails is used as a backend framework for web applications. It’s known for efficiency and scalability. You can write rich functionality with much fewer lines of code than you’d need in Java or Node.js.

Full-stack web application

Ruby on Rails is a highly structured framework for web development. Rails have a lot of rules on how the code has to be organized. The framework uses the Model, View, Controller framework. To get an app to respond to a request, you must define a view, controller, and route. Getting started with an MVC framework is time-consuming, but in the end, the code is well-organized and easy to read. Ultimately, you’ll end up with an efficient code that’s easy to maintain and edit.

Content management systems

Ruby on Rails is not yet the universal top choice for content management system development. PHP is still the go-to choice, but Ruby on Rails entered the field recently, and it offers a lot of competitive advantages. Ruby on Rails allows quickly writing rich functionality due to high abstraction levels. You can map entire tables and databases as separate objects. You can refer to a big chunk of functionality with several lines of code.

Prototyping

Ruby on Rails allows writing code fast and implementing built-in features available in the ecosystem. When you are working on the minimally viable version of a product, you don’t need ultimate speed and interface — the main priority is operational efficiency and well-organized development processes. Ruby on Rails offers multiple command-line code builders, letting developers avoid writing code from scratch. Coupled with open-source libraries, this ready-to-use code can accommodate more than half of functionality.

Challenges with Ruby on Rails

Many developers wonder: seeing how productive the writing process on Ruby and Ruby on Rails is, how come the language and its framework aren’t more popular? Even though the language wins in efficiency, its performance reputation isn’t quite that stellar.

Performance speed

If we compare the speed of Ruby on Rails vs Node.js, even experienced Ruby on Rails developers acknowledge that the framework is slow. While its speed improves with every version, it’s still much lower than Node’s. There are many reasons for the performance delay.

Given Node js vs Ruby on rails, Ruby is an interpreted tool, which means the code is not compiled into a machine version. Therefore, it’s harder for hardware to read and process quickly.

Node offers the Just In Time compilation which allows turning JS code into a bycode instead of a machine language. Cutting off an additional conversion step increases the application’s performance speed. Ruby, in comparison, introduced JIT only in recent versions, and it’s far from perfect — if anything, current JIT slows code processing down.

Ruby offers a way to write multiple threads, so the problem of handling CPU-intensive tasks isn’t as drastic as with Node. Still, when comparing Ruby on Rails vs Node.js performance, Rails won’t be your top choice.

Garbage collection ineffectiveness

It’s a known fact that garbage-collected languages tend to be slower. Suddenly, developers might see a sudden spike in memory usage in their apps and a drastic drop in performance speed.

The more you scale the application, the more memory each iteration of the garbage collector will use.

In Ruby, GC.disable will stop garbage collection. There are also libraries for handling garbage-collector-related memory leaks, but they mostly act as a temporary solution.

No static typing system

When we compare Ruby to Node.js, the lack of a static typing system is one of the most noticeable drawbacks. In Node.js, TypeScript allows integrated features not natively supported by JS. These features are written and displayed as typical JavaScript variables. There’s no difference in how the language treats its native and non-native components.

TypeScript is a must-use for increasing code reliability, facilitating the communication between teams, and documenting development. It also allows using specific features to increase the app’s compatibility with particular browsers. You can type code, organize features, and build new functionality. In Ruby, all these features don’t exist.

Difference Between Node.js and Ruby on Rails

comparison of node.js vs ruby on rails

Conclusion

Node.js and Ruby are powerful for backend development, but neither is perfect. Node.js’ main selling point is the possibility to use JavaScript for the entire tech stack and high-performance speed. Node.js vs Ruby on Rails performance differs in speed and real-time processing capacities.

  • Node.js efficiently handles short-term operations and quickly responds to user interactions. It's non-blocking processing, and event-driven syntax makes Node.js one of the most responsive backend languages.
  • Node.js handles web sockets well and can easily handle over 10,000 concurrent requests. Ruby, in comparison, is unable to handle such a workload — you’ll be risking a server crash.

Ruby on Rails and Ruby are known for superior design (syntax is clear and easy to learn). The code quality is higher than in Node.js — developers don’t have to repeat themselves and use unnecessary specifications. The language lacks efficiency in performance, but the development process is one of the most efficient out there — and not just in comparison to Node.

So, which is better: Ruby on Rails or Node.js?


Both languages cater to different types of projects. Ruby is perfect for teams that see development speed as a priority (Saas development, MVP, etc.). Node.js development solutions are a go-to choice for real-time and single-page web apps. If you are considering a backend tool for your project, let us know your concept. TechMagic development team will define project priorities to help you choose the stack that fits your needs like a glove.

FAQs

  1. Does Ruby on Rails have a future?

    Ruby on Rails is a reputable technology that benefits from extensive use and stability, but it now feels like the most recent development. Many projects, startups, and major software companies like Netflix, Shopify and Airbnb are still using Ruby on Rails.

  2. Is Ruby on Rails faster than Nodejs?

    Compared to Node.js, Ruby on Rails is faster and lighter because processes like database migration may be completed with just a few commands.

  3. Is Node js still relevant in 2023?

    Yes, Node js is continuously growing new tools, frameworks and communities. With Node.js, you can start building reliable and secure server-side applications faster.

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