A Basic Understanding of Background Processing in Node.js

By Ankit
January 24, 2023

Background processing paints a pretty simple picture in our minds – something that’s working behind the scenes, and is a crutch that isn’t meant for the eye. The practicality doesn’t sway far from this description. For instance, if we take up a web application, the background process is the work being done away from the general request-response loop. Whether it’s sending emails, scheduling tasks, or even the act of sending notifications to clients as a result of some error or happening in the system itself is considered a background process. Now let’s see why it is a necessity in Node.js. 

Options for Background Processing in Node.js

There are several ways to use Node.js background processing:

  • RabbitMQ, ActiveMQ, and Kafka are a few of the most popular message brokers. 
  • SQS, an Amazon message-queue service, is very easy to set up and is managed by AWS. The job request processing in Rails Applications is performed via the Redis-based Sidekiq and so on.  
  • For the Rails word people, Redis-backed Node-resque is a good option that resembles a Kanban-style factory. 
  • Bull and Kue are great for handling jobs and messages. These also use Redis for queueing. 
  • RabbitMQ is a heavyweight broker and has a range of configurations to suit your requirements better and is commonly used for message queries 
  • Node-Sidekiq which is mainly used to integrate Node.js with RoR can also be used for job scheduling. 

Why is Background Processing important in Node.js?

Based on events and callbacks, Node essentially drives apps using background processes. In particular, it’s quite good at handling a huge amount of files I/O and can handle a lot of network communication too. It seems particularly popular for socket-driven apps. The Node.js event loop supports tens of thousands of concurrent connections by operating on a single thread and using non-blocking I/O calls. Thus, Node.js offers plenty of features that make it a great environment for background processes. 

A great deal of effort is often put into designing web applications so that the user experience is as responsive as possible by getting only the critical data and rendering the current page as fast as possible, giving the user back command. A web server usually starts up a thread whenever a request is made. Long-running requests which take up more than a second are usually sent to be run in a background process. A thread remains alive as long as it has not been served. A prolonged response time can cause other requests to queue up, response time will gradually decline, the thread pool will exhaust, and your web server will crash.

To ensure the above-mentioned scenario doesn’t happen, and there is smooth functioning, some kind of background processing mechanism becomes important, especially for medium or larger web applications, where the workload is extensive. And that is why a queuing mechanism is usually used. 

Thus Node.js background processing is popularly favored by web developers and is also a great option for you if you’re starting up in the world of web development.

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