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Node.js and Google Cloud

Author(s): @jmdobry ,   Published: 2016-12-14

Contributed by Google employees.


  • Get an overview of Node.js.
  • Learn ways to run Node.js apps.

What is Node.js?

Node.js is an evented I/O framework built on the V8 JavaScript engine. It is intended for writing scalable network programs, such as web servers.

Event-driven programming

Event-driven programming is the idea that events control of the flow of a program. When an event occurs, code registered to handle the event is executed. When performing I/O, conventional programming is commonly synchronous, meaning that an executing thread must wait for the I/O operation to complete before it can continue its execution. Solutions such as multi-threading were devised to improve CPU utilization by switching between threads when a thread blocks. However, multi-threading introduces the overhead of switching between threads and remembering each thread’s context.

At the heart of Node.js is an event loop that performs two tasks: checking to see if an event has occurred and, if so, executing the registered event handler. This allows Node.js to maintain a single thread that is constantly working, executing event handlers as events occur.

Node.js is JavaScript

JavaScript is the language of Node.js. JavaScript has the concept of a closure: a function that remembers the context in which is was declared, allowing it to access that same context when it is executed later. This is perfect for event-driven programming. The programmer can register functions as event handlers, and when the event finally occurs these functions are then executed in the context in which the programmer intended. Along with this come the other features (and idiosyncrasies) of JavaScript: basic data types, prototypal inheritance, loops, conditionals, and so on. Node.js also comes with a set of core libraries that make up the I/O framework and provide other useful functionality.


Node.js was originally written to handle text—specifically HTML. The Buffer class was introduced to allow Node.js to handle binary data. Buffers are chunks of memory allocated outside of the JavaScript VM and are therefore immune to some of the normal effects of garbage collection. Buffers can be sliced and copied. The individual bytes of a Buffer can be manipulated. Buffers can be created from Strings of various encodings, and can be converted into Strings of various encodings. Buffers give Node.js a range of capabilities that increase the usefulness of Node.js.

Node.js module system

Node.js does away with the global namespace and implements the CommonJS standard. Files and modules have a one-to-one relationship. Each file chooses exactly what will be publicly exposed by the file’s module when it is loaded by other modules. Node.js looks for core modules first, then modules with relative path names, and finally looks in node_modules when searching for modules. Each module is cached the first time it is loaded, so the contents of each module are only initialized once.

Node.js core library and ecosystem

The Node.js core library provides you with a number of tools for performing I/O, working with HTTP, files, the OS, streams, and much more. In addition, npm is a large repository of community and open source packages for Node.js. Node.js is emerging in the enterprise as the ecosystem grows, as the runtime matures, and as it gains improved robustness and debugging capabilities.

Running Node.js apps on Google Cloud

There are five options for running Node.js applications on Google Cloud:

Node.js on Compute Engine

Hosting a Node.js application on Compute Engine is just like hosting a Node.js application on a conventional virtual private server (VPS)—you have complete control of the virtual machine. Compute Engine delivers virtual machines running in Google's worldwide data centers and fiber network. Compute Engine's tooling and workflow support enable scaling from single instances to global, load-balanced cloud computing.

Node.js on Kubernetes Engine

Google Kubernetes Engine is a powerful cluster manager and orchestration system for running your Docker containers. Google Kubernetes Engine schedules your containers into the cluster and manages them automatically based on requirements you define (such as CPU and memory). It's built on the open source Kubernetes system, giving you the flexibility to take advantage of on-premises, hybrid, or public cloud infrastructure. With Google Kubernetes Engine you can orchestrate containerized Node.js deployments using Kubernetes container management infrastructure.

Node.js on App Engine flexible environment

App Engine flexible environment is a fully managed, Docker-based platform as a service (PaaS). You can deploy, monitor, and scale Node.js applications without having to know anything about virtual machines, containers, or compute infrastructure. Google manages your Node.js application for you.

Node.js on App Engine standard environment

The Node.js runtime in the App Engine standard environment runs within containers inside of secure sandboxes and can balance load by automatically scaling. At any time, your application can be running on one or many instances with requests being spread across all of them. Each instance includes a security layer to ensure that instances cannot inadvertently affect each other.

Node.js on Cloud Functions

Cloud Functions is a lightweight, event-based, asynchronous compute system that allows you to create small, single-purpose functions that respond to cloud events without the need to manage a server or a runtime environment. You deploy individual functions written in Node.js that are executed in response to various cloud events, including direct HTTP requests.

Learn how to prepare a Node.js development environment.

Read more about Node.js on Google Cloud.

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