Node.js vs Java: Side by Side Comparison

by Boemo Wame Mmopelwa

8 min read · Jul 1, 2021

Choosing the suitable backend technology to use in your software project can be hectic.

Factors such as scalability, performance, and architecture are important when considering a backend technology.

In this post, we will compare two major backend technologies side by side – Node js vs Java. We will also learn which backend technology between Node.js and Java is the best for which software development project. 

Let's begin!

Points We Will Cover in This Article

  1. A comparison of Java installation procedure and Node.js installation procedure
  2. Basic models of the Node js Architecture
  3. Components of Java Architecture
  4. Node.js and Java programming concepts
  5. Applications of Java and Node.js
  6. Which technology is better in terms of scalability
  7. Performance comparison between Java and Node.js
  8. Advantages and disadvantages of Java
  9. Advantages and disadvantages of Node.js
  10. Draw conclusions on which one is the best for which software development project

Let's start first by understanding the sole purpose of each backend technology.

Java is a programming language that is designed to be object-oriented, class-based. It was developed by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems and released on January 23, 1996.

Java is widely used in developing:

  • Android applications
  • games
  • Desktop GUI
  • web apps 

It is amongst the top five most used programming languages worldwide, as shown by Statista. Knowing how to code in Java significantly increases your chances of getting hired as the demand for Java developers remains strong.

On the other hand, Node.js is a runtime environment that runs Javascript code outside of the web browser. 

It is extensively used in developing:

  • APIs
  • servers
  • video streaming apps
  • chat applications

The non-blocking I/O model makes it efficient at carrying out its tasks which is why video streaming apps use it.

The good news is that Node.js developers for hire are currently in demand. Adding Node js developer skills to your developer portfolio will increase the chance of you getting a job. Many start-up companies are opting for it, and major companies such as PayPal are shifting to Node.js. 

66.8% of developers in StackOverflow rated Node.js as the most loved tool in StackOverflow, as shown by the StackOverflow developer survey 2020.

A Comparison of Java vs. Node.js Installation Procedure

Installing Java is an easy task. The only thing to do is to download the Java Development Kit (JDK) from the oracle website. The Java Development Kit also includes the Java Runtime Environment. You have to add the JDK file location to the environment variables on your laptop. You can download it here. Once that is done, you would only have to install updates.

A computer with a minimum of 8GB RAM and Intel i5 processor or better specifications will be able to run Java and Node.js efficiently.

Node.js has two versions. The first one is the latest updated version, and the second one is the Long Term support version. It is advised that you should install the LTS version, which focuses on stability. If you encounter any issues, you can find solutions online compared to the current version under active development. You can download any of them here

To use and install Node.js, one has to be familiar with the command line or terminal.

Basic Models of the Node.js Architecture

Asynchronous I/O

The asynchronous I/O  prevents the program from blocking by allowing an application to overlap with I/O tasks.

Event-driven architecture

The event-driven architecture is a model that promotes the production and detection of events. An event in this context is a change in state.

Event Loop

Node.js runs on a single thread. All of the tasks are run on a single thread. The event loop is the essential part of Node.js as it executes callback functions and clears heavy functions.

Components of Java Architecture

The Java architecture consists of the Java Runtime Environment, Java Virtual Machine, and the Java Development Kit. All of these components are necessary for the creation and execution of a Java program.

Java Development (JDK) 

This is a software development environment that is used when developing Java applications.

Java Runtime Environment (JRE)

This component is responsible for the execution of the Java code.

Java Virtual Machine (JVM)

The JVM manages and improves program memory and also allows your computer to run Java programs.

Java vs. Node js Programming Concepts

If you're a beginner, it is important to start with Java first, as you will learn many fundamental programming concepts hidden in Javascript.

It takes an average programmer two years to learn Java, but a well-committed person putting more effort into practicing and putting in more hours can take 3-6 months. Below are the core concepts in Object-oriented programming:

  • Encapsulation
  • Abstraction
  • Polymorphism
  • Inheritance

Here are some frameworks you could use to develop Java and Node.js applications. These frameworks add efficiency to the software development process:

Examples of Java FrameworksExamples of Node js frameworks
Apache WicketExpress.js
SpringMeteor.js
VaadinKoa.js
Strutssocket.io

Having a good background in Javascript will make the process of learning Node.js faster. Here are Javascript concepts you should master before starting Node.js:

  • Modules
  • Prototyping
  • Callbacks
  • Asynchronous I/O

Applications of Java and Node.js

Java focuses on a lot of fields as compared to Node.js. Node.js has a great speed that makes it suitable for applications that have a lot of data traffic.

Large companies such as PayPal, Netflix, and Trello use Node.js. As Node.js provides great performance, Paypal no longer uses Java only but has shifted to Node.js. 

Java is widely used in many categories of software applications. We can call it the jack of all trades.

Due to its ability to carry out heavy computing tasks, many scientific applications such as MATLAB use Java. Business applications also use the Java Enterprise Edition. Java is also used in the following application categories:

  1. Gaming Technology.
  2. Web-based Applications.
  3. Android apps: Most of the android applications are built using Java even though Kotlin is now the official language for Android apps.
  4. Java Desktop GUI Applications.

Node.js vs. Java: Which Technology Is More Scalable? 

Node.js can stand heavy load peaks, and it's lightweight which makes it great for microservices. Microservices are software approaches where software is composed of small independent services. This software approach increases flexibility. 

Java has a development architecture known as the Enterprise Java Beans. This implementation makes it the best language to use in building enterprise applications. Enterprise Java Beans also uses the event-driven architecture which is used by Node.js. This architecture improves scalability as services are deployed in multiple instance scenarios.

Node js vs. Java Performance Comparison

Node.js is built on the  Google Chrome V8 engine, which is very fast.

What's more, the asynchronous I/O model prevents the application from blocking and allows the application to overlap with I/O operations.

Java constantly releases updates that improve performance, such as the Just in time compiler that was released in August 2014. This feature optimizes performance by compiling bytecode into the native machine code at runtime.

In the end, your project will define which backend technology will perform better. Both of the two back-end technologies have their own niches.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Java

Advantages of Java Disadvantages of Java 
Cost-effective developmentThe Java framework uses a lot of memory
Increased security, as it avoids the usage of explicit pointersIt is slow when compared to natively compiled languages such as C or C++
Java programs are stableJava code uses too many words which leads to long sentences that are hard to scan
The syntax is easy to learn and understand
Easy to install and maintain

Advantages and Disadvantages of Node.js

Advantages of Node.js Disadvantages of Node.js
Node.js has very few restrictions as developers build their projects from scratchThere is a high demand for Node.js developers, but there are few well-experienced developers
The Non-blocking model provides more scalability as two or more requests can be processed at the same timeNode.js does not support multi-threaded programming; henceforth, it is not efficient at working out complex and heavy calculations and heavy computing
Node.js has grown into a huge community over the past years, making it easy to find solutions if you encounter bugsSome modules and packages of Node.js are not well documented

Which One is Best for Your Software Development Project? 

Node js vs Java: which one should you go for? 

If you're working on a software application that carries out heavy computing tasks, it's important to choose Java. Java is also suitable for enterprise applications as it has a dedicated architecture, the Enterprise Java Beans.

If the web application you're developing will have a lot of data traffic, choose Node.js as your backend technology.

In the end, applying best practices and conventions will improve the performance of Java and Node.js.

Useful resources to read after reading this article

Q: Does Node.js use Java?
Yes, a web application that depends on Node.js mostly follows the Java web application architecture.
Q: What is Node.js used for?
Node.js is a platform created on chrome’s JavaScript runtime for developing fast and scalable network applications. It makes use of an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it the right choice for data-intensive real-time applications that run across distributed devices. 
Q: Is JavaScript slower than Java?
No, JavaScript is not slower than Java. JavaScript, as an interpreted language, is faster than Java because it executes the source code program itself just like all other interpreters.