Initially, on the issue of Node.js vs. Java performance, it appears these two programming languages are incomparable when it comes to the runtime. However, looking more closely on the matter, it shows that Java has evolved into a comprehensive ecosystem having its own set of APIs, libraries, plugins, runtime environment, and virtual device.
As a programming language, Java has been in existence for over two decades. This was released by Sun Microsystems and later Oracle took over, which currently owns and further develops it. Since then Java has dominated the software development industry in the server-side language. Basically, Java is considered an object-oriented compiled language where its syntax is based on C++.
In 2009, Node.js was released to the public. Today, it is recognized as an open-source community project built under the Node.js Foundation.
Below is the general comparison between Node.js vs Java performance to identify possible situations that it is best to use one or the other when engaged in backend development.
Java, as a backend programming language, has several advantages.
Independence of the platform
Java is popular for its ‘Write Once, Run Anywhere’ (WORA) method. This means the code written in Java can be used on all platforms regardless of its origin. The platform independence is brought by the so-called Java Virtual Machine (JVM) or the environment to execute the Java code.
Prior to JVM, all types of software were developed for a specific operating system. When JVM was launched, it was a breakthrough enabling to run the software on any hardware or operating system where the JVM can be installed. The JVM allows making the Java source code readable in any platform without the need for special compilers. This separates Java from other languages that need compilers.
Compared to Node.js, it contains modules that are linked to the operating system. When running the software on another platform, the modules should be recreated to make them compatible with the new OS.
Integrated development environment
Regarding the integrated development environment (IDE), both Node.js and Java have their own IDEs. However, Java has a better version. For Java developers, they prefer using Eclipse, NetBeans, and IntelliJ IDEA that involve integrated debuggers, decompilers, and servers.
Every Java IDE consists of a comprehensive environment that assists in all backend code creation stages. When employing an IDE, you can instantly do code writing, editing and debugging, software development, and testing.
Rich library sources
For the past 20 years, Java has acquired a huge number of libraries that have reusable code components. These libraries are time-saving resources that provide the details needed by the vast Java community.
Many Java libraries are considered open-source and most expert developers are instrumental in updating the resources. The available Java libraries provide all programming areas. These include general purpose libraries like Apache Commons and XML parsing libraries (JAXB), including unit testing libraries, such as JUnit, and many more.
Java has a multi-threaded web server that executes every request in a thread separately. Multi-threading helps to carry out several tasks all at the same time without event queueing.
Multi-threaded processing uses Java as the best tool for CPU-intensive apps like video streaming and image editing. Using Java, multi-threading is integrated. Unlike other languages, they require added processes for every operating system to ensure successful multi-threaded request processing.
Node.js is single-threaded. All requests are being processed in a sole thread. The events are in a queue and being processed one at a time. The single-threaded method makes the performance of Node.js applications a bit slow and not best to use for large, CPU-heavy products.
Also, it can be noted that the Node.js can be used when implementing the multi-threaded mode. However, the solution known as ‘worker threads’ are not applicable and develops a multi-threaded method. There exists a single thread with innovative approaches that may share memory and exchange messages.
The worker threads can be employed to do CPU-intensive tasks. This could be one major area where Node.js is weak. At present, there is still no stable version. This makes it is difficult to identify if this initiative is successful. In any case, this is something to look forward to.
What Node.js provides
In the case of Java, it is a backend language that needs some variation for developing the frontend. Although there exist Java-specific frontend tools like JavaFX and Swing, these could not provide a uniform code like Node.js.
Easier to create
Although Java libraries with their reusable parts are better compared to Node.js, there are many community-developed codes that may be reused when done in Node.js apps. Integrating Node.js takes about 33% fewer code lines than Java. As observed, developing an app using Node.js is faster on average.
Node.js and Java can do requests at different levels. However, their built-in apps have tools that are highly scalable. The requests can be held in parallel without necessarily waiting until the past tasks are finalized.
For Node.js, it has improved horizontal scalability that is attained by placing more hardware. Also, with vertical scalability brought by combining processing power, Node.js is not as great compared to its single-threaded nature. It is seen that the thread only employs a single core. For multi-core systems, it requires using the cluster module that enables the development of child processes for all cores. It can be noted that executing a cluster can be a memory-consuming process.
Meanwhile, Java is not scaling out or works well in horizontal scalability. It needs several servers to perform at its best. However, to a certain degree, adding more servers could no longer provide the target performance level.
In some instances, Node.js is far better than Java. It all depends on the type of metric used when comparing the speed. Different metrics provide a greater advantage to either Node.js or Java.
The speed of executing requests is based on how both tools can process input/output (IO) tasks. Node.js executes the IOs in a non-blocking approach. This means that in a single thread it can perform several IO requests simultaneously. No need to wait to complete one request to begin processing the others.
In Java, it employs both blocking and non-blocking IO. Blocking IO works by taking the first IO request as it blocks the rest. This slows down the speed significantly. This requires the application to wait as the thread processes the requests one at a time. Increasing the speed is possible by adding threads but this is an uneconomical option.
Also, for Java, the non-blocking IO has been widely used as a standard. The Java flow is far more complex compared to the Node.js non-blocking flow.
Non-blocking IO processing enables Node.js as a suitable tool for developing apps when designing massive reading or writing operations, including backup, transaction processing, logging, data acquisition, and real-time apps.