How Node.js saved the U.S. Government $100K

By September 11, 2020Blog, Case Study, Node.js, OpenJS World

The following blog is based on a talk given at the OpenJS Foundation’s annual OpenJS World event and covers solutions created with Node.js.

When someone proposes a complicated, expensive solution ask yourself: can it be done cheaper, better and/or faster? Last year, an external vendor wanted to charge $103,000 to create an interactive form and store the responses. Ryan Hillard, Systems Developer at the U.S. Small Business Administration, was brought in to create a less expensive, low-maintenance alternative to the vendor’s proposal. Hillard was able to create a solution using ~320 lines of code and $3000. In the talk below Hillard describes what the difficulties were and how his Node.js solution fixed the problem.

Last year, Hillard started work on a government’s case management system that received and processed feedback from external and internal users. Unfortunately, a recent upgrade and rigorous security measures prevented external users from leaving feedback. Hillard needed to create a secure interactive form and then store the data. However, the solution also needed to be cheap, easy to maintain and stable. 

Hillard decided to use three common services: Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda and Node.js. Together, these pieces provided a simple and versatile way to capture and then store response data. Maintenance is low because the servers are maintained by Amazon. Additionally, future developers can easily alter and improve the process as all three services/languages are commonly used. 

To end his talk, Hillard discussed the design and workflow processes that led him to his solution. He compares JavaScript to a giant toolkit with hundreds of libraries and dependencies — a tool for every purpose. However, this variety can be counterproductive as the complexity – and thus the management time – increases.

Developers should ask themselves how they can solve their problems without introducing anything new. In other words, size does matter — the smallest, simplest toolkit is the best!