What so different about Node.js’s event-driven? Can’t we do that in ASP.Net’s HttpAsyncHandler?

The question:

I’m not very experienced in web programming,
and I haven’t actually coded anything in Node.js yet, just curious about the event-driven approach. It does seems good.

The article explains some bad things that could happen when we use a thread-based approach to handle requests, and should opt for a event-driven approach instead.
In thread-based, the cashier/thread is stuck with us until our food/resource is ready. While in event-driven, the cashier send us somewhere out of the request queue so we don’t block other requests while waiting for our food.
To scale the blocking thread-based, you need to increase the number of threads.
To me this seems like a bad excuse for not using threads/threadpools properly.

Couldn’t that be properly handled using IHttpAsyncHandler?
ASP.Net receives a request, uses the ThreadPool and runs the handler (BeginProcessRequest), and then inside it we load the file/database with a callback. That Thread should then be free to handle other requests. Once the file-reading is done, the ThreadPool is called into action again and executes the remaining response.
Not so different for me, so why is that not as scalable?

One of the disadvantages of the thread-based that I do know is, using threads needs more memory. But only with these, you can enjoy the benefits of multiple cores. I doubt Node.js is not using any threads/cores at all.

So, based on just the event-driven vs thread-based (don’t bring the “because it’s Javascript and every browser…” argument), can someone point me out what is the actual benefit of using Node.js instead of the existing technology?

That was a long question. Thanks 🙂

The Solutions:

Below are the methods you can try. The first solution is probably the best. Try others if the first one doesn’t work. Senior developers aren’t just copying/pasting – they read the methods carefully & apply them wisely to each case.

Method 1

First of all, Node.js is not multi-threaded. This is important. You have to be a very talented programmer to design programs that work perfectly in a threaded environment. Threads are just hard.

You have to be a god to maintain a threaded project where it wasn’t designed properly. There are just so many problems that can be hard to avoid in very large projects.

Secondly, the whole platform was designed to be run asynchronously. Have you see any ASP.NET project where every single IO interaction was asynchronous? simply put, ASP.NET was not designed to be event-driven.

Then, there’s the memory footprint due to the fact that we have one thread per open-connection and the whole scaling issue. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t know how you would avoid creating a new thread for each connection in ASP.NET.

Another issue is that a Node.js request is idle when it’s not being used or when it’s waiting for IO. On the other hand, a C# thread sleeps. Now, there is a limit to the number of these threads that can sleep. In Node.js, you can easily handle 10k clients at the same time in parallel on one development machine. You try handling 10k threads in parallel on one development machine.

JavaScript itself as a language makes asynchronous coding easier. If you’re still in C# 2.0, then the asynchronous syntax is a real pain. A lot of developers will simply get confused if you’re defining Action<> and Function<> all over the place and using callbacks. An ASP.NET project written in an evented way is just not maintainable by an average ASP.NET developer.

As for threads and cores. Node.js is single-threaded and scales by creating multiple-node processes. If you have a 16 core then you run 16 instances of your node.js server and have a single Node.js load balancer in front of it. (Maybe a nginx load balancer if you want).

This was all written into the platform at a very low-level right from the beginning. This was not some functionality bolted on later down the line.

Other advantages

Node.js has a lot more to it then above. Above is only why Node.js’ way of handling the event loop is better than doing it with asynchronous capabilities in ASP.NET.

  • Performance. It’s fast. Real fast.
  • One big advantage of Node.js is its low-level API. You have a lot of control.
  • You have the entire HTTP server integrated directly into your code then outsourced to IIS.
  • You have the entire nginx vs Apache comparison.
  • The entire C10K challenge is handled well by node but not by IIS
  • AJAX and JSON communication feels natural and easy.
  • Real-time communication is one of the great things about Node.js. It was made for it.
  • Plays nicely with document-based nosql databases.
  • Can run a TCP server as well. Can do file-writing access, can run any unix console command on the server.
  • You query your database in javascript using, for example, CouchDB and map/reduce. You write your client in JavaScript. There are no context switches whilst developing on your web stack.
  • Rich set of community-driven open-source modules. Everything in node.js is open source.
  • Small footprint and almost no dependencies. You can build the node.js source yourself.

Disadvantages of Node.js

It’s hard. It’s young. As a skilled JavaScript developer, I face difficulty writing a website with Node.js just because of its low-level nature and the level of control I have. It feels just like C. A lot of flexibility and power either to be used for me or to hang me.

The API is not frozen. It’s changing rapidly. I can imagine having to rewrite a large website completely in 5 years because of the amount Node.js will be changed by then. It is do-able, you just have to be aware that maintenance on node.js websites is not cheap.

further reading

http://blog.mixu.net/2011/02/01/understanding-the-node-js-event-loop/

http://blip.tv/file/2899135

http://nodeguide.com/

Method 2

There are a lot of misconceptions regarding node.js vs. ASP.Net and asynchronous programming. You can do non blocking IO in ASP.NET. Most people don’t know that the .Net framework uses Windows iocompletion ports underneath when you do web service calls or other I/O bound operations using the begin/end pattern in .Net 2.0 and above. IO completion ports is the way the Windows operating system supports non-blocking IO so that the app thread is freed why the IO operation completes. Interestingly, node.js uses a less optimal non blocking IO implementation in Windows through Cygwin. A new Windows version is on the road map, which with Microsoft’s guidance will be using IO completions ports. At that point there is underneath no difference.

It is also possible to do non-blocking database calls in ADO.NET but be aware of ORM tools such as NHibernate and Entity Framework. They are still very much synchronous.

Synchronous IO (blocking) makes the control flow much clearer and it has for this reason become popular. The reason why computer environments are multithreaded has only superficially to do with this. It is more generally related to time sharing and utilization of multiple CPUs.

Having only a single thread can cause starvation during lengthy operations, which can be related to both IO and complex computations. So, even though the rule of thumb is one thread pr. core when utilizing non-blocking IO, one should still consider a sufficient thread pool size so that simple requests don’t get starved by more complex operations if such exist. Multiple threads also allows complex operations to be split easily among multiple CPUs. A single threaded environment like node.js can only utilize multicore processors through more processes and message passing to coordinate action.

I have personally not yet seen any compelling argument to introduce an additional technology such a node.js. However, there may be good reasons but they have in my opinion little to do with servicing a large number of connections through non-blocking IO since this can also be done with ASP.NET.

BTW tamejs can help make your nodejs code more readable similar to the new upcoming .Net Async CTP.

Method 3

It is easy to understate the cultural difference between the Node.js and ASP.NET communities. Sure, IHttpAsyncHandler exists and it’s been around since .NET 1.0 so it might even be good, but all of the code and discussion around Node.js is about async I/O which is decidedly not the case when it comes to .NET. Want to use LINQ To SQL? You kind of can, kind of. Want to log stuff? Maybe “CSharp DotNet Logger” will work, maybe.

So yes, IHttpAsyncHandler is there and if you’re really careful you might be able to write an event driven web-service without tripping over some blocking I/O somewhere, but I don’t really get the impression a lot of people are using it (and it certainly isn’t the prominent way for writing ASP.NET apps). In contrast, Node.js is all about evented I/O, all the code examples, all the libraries and it’s the only way people are using it. So if you were going to bet on which one’s evented I/O model actually worked all the way through, Node.js would probably be the one to pick.

Method 4

As per current age technology improvements and reading below links, I can say, it is matter of expertise and choosing perfect mix as per the particular scenario that matters. NodeJS is getting mature and ASP.NET side we have ASP.NET MVC, WebAPI, and SignalR etc. to make things better.

Node.js vs .Net performance

http://www.salmanq.com/blog/net-and-node-js-performance-comparison/2013/03/
and

http://www.hanselman.com/blog/InstallingAndRunningNodejsApplicationsWithinIISOnWindowsAreYouMad.aspx

Thanks.


All methods was sourced from stackoverflow.com or stackexchange.com, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5, cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0

Leave a Comment