Ruby on Rails vs Node.js - which technology you should choose to build your next web app

Paweł Dąbrowski - Chief Technology Officer
node, rails, ruby, software, web development

When it comes to building web applications, it might be hard these days to select technology. The variety of choices is great. However, regarding the tech stack for rapid development, we have two candidates that stand out: ruby on rails and node js.

While both technologies are different, and created with different programming languages, we can use them to solve the same problems. This article is a comprehensive comparison to help you decide how you can build your next web platform.

Why we should compare Ruby on Rails with Node.js?

As I mentioned before, both frameworks are based on different technologies. For example, Ruby on Rails is created with ruby programming language while Node.js is created with JavaScript and running on Chrome V8 engine. Still, it’s worth comparing them as at some point, you can achieve the same result with both. Also, they both are running on an open source runtime environment.
Both tools are perfect for rapid application development of complex apps but when it comes to serving the presentation layer, handling CPU intensive tasks, or asynchronous processing - we can tell which choice will be better.
Before I will go into details about the comparison, we should briefly talk about what Ruby on Rails and node js really are.

What is Ruby on Rails?

Ruby on rails is a framework designed for web app development. In a short time, you can create web apps with ruby language. The development speed is great and while Rails is a backend framework, you can also serve the frontend with it.
Web developers often use this web application framework as it makes communication with the database easier thanks to object relational mapping. Of course, you can also write your own sql code which makes the development process even more flexible.
We also can’t forget about the ruby community that provides thousands of useful libraries called Ruby gems. They make the new feature development even faster.

What is Node js?

Node.js is created with JavaScript but it is a server-side framework. It is possible thanks to the Google V8 engine. The tool is a great choice to write real-time apps like chat apps but it will be also useful for standard web apps.
Thanks to the node package manager, your development team can easily extend the application with open-source libraries created by other developers.
Developers often choose Node js because they can write asynchronous code without using much computing resources. They also can create scalable applications to handle simultaneous requests. Besides that, you can also use this flexible framework to build a simple website project.

The development process for web developers

The way you can begin web development with both technologies is slightly different. Let’s take a closer look at the process and the syntax of both frameworks as this is one of the deciding factors for the speed of the development.

Web development with Node.js

When you start a new project there is no skeleton. You only have a runtime environment on which you can execute your code. It happens very often that you have to write a lot of boilerplate code to get something fully working.
On the other hand, with Node js, you use only javascript to write the code. JavaScript is one of the most popular technologies these days so the learning curve for the framework is lower for most developers.
The framework does not use the model view controller architecture so the amount of code is smaller and it makes the backend development more flexible. With Node js, you can also easily create web servers to expose your application to the world.

Web development with Ruby on Rails

When you start a new project you get a skeleton at your disposal. You can select among multiple database environments and later switch between them even if you already created database tables.
Ruby has a very friendly syntax which makes the learning process pleasant and efficient. Thanks to the mvc architecture, you have the base code for the client side so it makes the web development faster as you don’t have to write a lot of boilerplate code.
Rails developers often skip the generation of the traditional views and build REST API applications which are a perfect choice for you if want to use Ruby on Rails as a backend technology but serve the fronted with different tools.

Use cases

Both Node js and Ruby on Rails are perfect for server-side development and the development of scalable applications. However, there are a few types of applications where either Ruby on Rails or Node js is better. Let’s find out which.

What can you build with Ruby on Rails?

Most developers think about web applications when they think about Ruby on Rails. That’s absolutely true. Ror developers are always there if you need your application to be developed very fast. Leading tech companies are using Ruby on Rails to prototype their ideas and build MVP projects.
Besides mentioned use cases, you can also build the rest API with Ruby on Rails. What are the most popular types of applications that we can build?

  • Fullstack web applications
  • API applications
  • Prototypes

When people think about the rails app, in most cases they consider these three types of applications.

What you can build with Node js?

You can serve HTML with the Node js but you are the most effective if you write a code that stays on the server side and let the frontend application take responsibility for the presentation side.
Because of that, if you would like to build a full-stack application, you can’t use only Node js, you have to use some frontend framework like Vue or React. The good news is that you are still using JavaScript for both sides so you experience high code efficiency.
Besides API development, Node js is also perfect for the following types of applications:

  • Microservices
  • CLI tools
  • Internet of things

Advantages and disadvantages

I already mentioned a few advantages of both frameworks but it is always good to compare good things and bad things about the given technology as the wider context is helpful when the decision time comes.

Advantages

  • Ruby on rails
    • Fast app creation and prototyping
    • Helpful community
    • A rich ecosystem of open-source libraries
    • Regular updates and security fixes so it’s easier to address security vulnerabilities
  • NODE.JS
    • Fast processing
    • Easy scalability
    • A rich ecosystem of open-source libraries

Disadvantages

  • NODE.JS
    • Security issues are difficult to tackle due to the large ecosystem of external libraries
    • Poor performance on intensive processor tasks
    • Unstable API
    • There is no standard library
  • Ruby on Rails
    • The boot process is slower compared to other technologies
    • High memory consumption
    • Issues with scalability
    • Lack of documentation for some Rubygems

It is worth comparing ruby on rails vs node js also in terms of disadvantages. Depending on your needs, specific properties of the given technology may not fit your expectations and generate more costs than expected.

Summary

When you want to decide which technology to use for your next project, you have to always start by writing down your needs and the type of application you would like to build. Without that, it is hard to tell who is the winner in the comparison of ruby on rails vs node js.

Which technology should you use?

  • USE RUBY ON RAILS IF:
    • You want to prototype a web application
    • You would like to build a web application
    • You target to build a more complex API for the frontend application
  • USE NODE.JS IF:
    • You want to build a microservice
    • You develop the CLI tool
    • You want to create a simple API application

With both frameworks, you can keep high code quality, design complex user interactions, and easily extend the existing functionalities of the application. However, the choice is important as later the code optimization may be expensive if you would chose not correctly.

We can help

We can help you with the decision that will be the best for your project. If you are already maintaining the application created with Node.js or Ruby on Rails, we can improve its performance and code quality.


Let’s get in touch
Author's Bio
Paweł Dąbrowski

Chief Technology Officer

Open source fan and growth seeker with over a decade of experience in writing for both human beings and computers. I connect the dots to create high-quality software, valuable relations with people and businesses.

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