Podcast: iModernize – Always Bet on Node

By October 13, 2020Blog, Node.js

Recently, Robin Ginn, OpenJS Foundation Executive Director and Joe Sepi, OpenJS CPC Chair, sat down with Amanda Blackburn of OpenJS Member Company, Profound Logic, to discuss the Foundation and Node.js. The following was posted originally on the Profound Logic blog.

Today Amanda speaks with two members of the OpenJS Foundation.

Links mentioned:

Node.js Helps NASA Keep Astronauts Safe and Data Accessible 

OpenJS World Keynote: Reaching Your Dreams In Tech and Science – Christina H. Koch, NASA Astronaut

https://twitter.com/joe_sepi\

https://LeastBestBeast.com

Amanda Blackburn:

Hello and welcome to the iModernize podcast; Technology news, views and insights for businesses on the IBM i platform. I am your host Amanda Blackburn and I am the Director of Marketing at Profound Logic Software. Today we are discussing the OpenJS Foundation, the neutral home to grow and sustain the JavaScript and web ecosystems with over 30 projects that include Node.js, Electron, AMP and JQuery. I am excited to be joined by Robin Ginn, Executive Director of the OpenJS Foundation, and Joe Sepi, who is an Open Source Engineer and an advocate at IBM. Robin just passed her one-year anniversary leading the organization and previously led major initiatives at Microsoft to advance Open Source technologies, community development and open standards.

Joe has been active in the Node.js project community, and the foundation, for a number of years and was part of the small group that merge the JS Foundation and the Node.js Foundation. He is now the chairperson for the cross-project council, the OpenJS Foundation’s top technical advisory committee.

Welcome to you both and thanks for joining us.

Robin Ginn

Thanks for having us.

Joe Sepi

Yeah thank you Amanda.

Amanda:

Just to jump right in, Robin, can you tell us about the history of the OpenJS Foundation?

Robin

I have been a part of the Node.js Foundation since it started almost 11 years ago. As you mentioned in your intro, the Node.js Foundation merged with the OpenJS Foundation to create a new home. We are new, but a lot of us have been at it for a very long time and we have lots of new friends that are joining. What we do is offer a neutral place for Open Source technology development and collaborate to happen. Having that neutral place is really important. If you are a company taking a big bet on a piece of Open Source software, you want to know that is being developed in a fair and open, and clear and transparent way.

We are super excited the Profound Logic is one of the members of the OpenJS Foundation. This membership helps us develop programs to support training and certification services, providing some IP support and giving people a place to development. We just hope that you all benefit from having greater connections to the community and take advantage of some marketing and though leadership opportunities as you are important leaders in the Open Source community.

Amanda

Definitely. We have enjoyed being a part of that because it is such a vibrant community, especially on the Node side from our experience. It is so nice to be able to go out and see people so passionate about a language and technology, and to see what they are able to do with it.

Joe, you have been involved with the community side of this, can you tell us a little more information on what that has been like?

Joe Sepi:

Sure! As you mentioned, the Node community is really passionate. Not just for the platform and the technology, but also for the community and the governance of the project. I have been a part of the Node.js community committee for a number of years, which focuses on the aspects outside of the core technical platform development, like the community part. We have taken a lot of that to the OpenJS Foundation and are working hard on building out a great community. We have been making a lot of progress on individual supporter program and generally just trying to engage with the community more.

Amanda

Yeah it has very impressive to see the level of commitment and involvement in the community. This is something that we enjoy sharing with businesses that we talk to. There are always new ideas and new ways to support businesses on these languages. Today’s business have more tech options that ever before, but also just as many tech challenges.

A question I would as you both is: why is Open Source important to today’s businesses?

Robin

Let’s just look at Node.js and why it is important. I think we were having Hackathons probably 12-13 years ago. I love to credit the foundation model for keeping Node.js modern and trustworthy for businesses today. You mentioned Netflix, NASA is using Node.js in space suit solutions as their astronauts spend time on the space stations. I think most companies are using Open Source, but the Linux foundation just released a white paper on the importance of Open Source for business, particularly vertical businesses. They found that businesses contributing to Open Source as they move towards digital transformation and modernization helps them innovate much more quickly, 3xs faster.

Amanda

I know for our customers, since we are in the legacy modernization space, we definitely try to get that message across. Open Source, including Node.js, can be really great way to help them address those challenges.

Joe

Yeah! I just pulled up the GitHub repository for Node, and there are over 2800 contributors. I don’t want to say that is free work, because you should always give back and support Open Source, but you are getting all of this people focusing on making the platform stable, secure and modern. It is like having a whole other team supporting the work and products that you are using.

Robin

That is what I love about GitHub. The support and feedback are instant and open for all. As you are building your own software solutions you have access to that developer feedback and documentation. 2800 developers are all working on it in real time.

Amanda

That is something that we have even taken advantage of for our own products and services. For those that don’t know, npm[now a part of GitHub] is a great way to discover those applications and code to repurpose for any number of ways, even for business technologies.

Something that we have noticed in the AS/400 market is a lot our developers are getting older, and soon they will be retiring. A lot of the businesses we work with are still running applications on RPGLE or older application languages and will lose that mindshare when their developers leave. How can Node or other Open Source languages help bridge that gap, especially when looking for new developers?

Joe

I don’t think there has been a better time to be utilize open source technologies to modernize these legacy applications. In my experience, when moving from legacy applications to more modern approaches (like microservices for example) you can do it with a piecemeal-type of approach. Take certain applications and start to think about things in isolation so you can maintain and update them without effecting the larger application. The more you can separate those types of things the better.

Amanda

Definitely. Robin, you might see this as well. One of the great challenges for businesses, not just legacy businesses, is the accumulation of technical debt and how to address that. I would imagine most businesses struggle with this. Could you speak a little about how Open Source languages might be able to help with that?

Robin

If you look at a combination Open source and open standard, what you are really doing is driving that inner operability. You can ease your transition to the cloud without having to rip and replace absolutely everything. You know that your systems will work better together. Node.js and other open source technology give you that flexibility to build modern apps and new solutions. You also mentioned the ability to attract new talent and developers. Before lockdown I was at a developer conference and I talked to some recruiters. They said one of the top categories they were hiring was Node.js developers. It definitely is the top of the developer talent pool together.

Amanda

Definitely. We see that languages such as RPG, or even COBOL, and are not even being taught in colleges anymore, even though a huge portion of the world’s business have them in their infrastructure. Node is really a great option because it is both client and server side, and business can look for JavaScript developers who could very easily learn Node and leverage that for their business applications.

Joe

I have been doing JavaScript for twenty years and with Node being created in 2009 it really made JavaScript such a prevalent technology in the space. To be able to hire engineers who can work on the front and back end is a huge asset for businesses in my experience.

Amanda

That is great to hear, and we are seeing the same.

Speaking of successfulness, which you mentioned before Robin with NASA trusting Node to keep them safe space, are their any other success stories with businesses using Node?

Robin

Oh gosh. I think we like to say Node is everywhere, and it really truly is once you start to talk to companies. We have actually been running some case studies on our blog if anyone is interested in taking a look. Companies like Netflix is using Node.jsEssry is doing some COVID tracking, as well as NearForm. There are a lot of really fascinating use cases.

But again, when you’re talking mission-critical, making sure your space suit doesn’t leak I We had written up this really cool case study, so we invited a NASA astronaut who benefitted from our technology, her name is Christina H. Koch. She spoke at OpenJS World, so you might want to check that out. She has a really fascinating story on how NASA is using technologies.

Joe

Yeah, that was a really great talk and I really enjoyed that. There is also a case study on the Weather Company. They have billions of locations, 60 languages and 230 location.

Amanda

Yeah that is pretty amazing, and I would say that shows Node’s scalability.

Joe

Yeah absolutely. You had mentioned on phrase: JavaScript and Node.js are everywhere. Another one we always hear: Always bet on Node. Before joining IBM I worked at a couple other big-name companies, and at both of them we were doing a rewrite/green field application and I recommended we do it in Node. Since we had quite a few PHP developers, so they decided to go with PHP. In both instances, within a few years they had to rewrite in Node. So, always bet on Node.

Amanda

Yeah that is something that we see as well. Robin you had mentioned rip and replace, and that is an option that we are always opposed too because we have enough experience to know it is not the fastest, easiest, or most thorough way. It is always a huge mess, and very expensive and risky. The other option we see is rewriting, something like Java or .NET, they run into similar limitations.

Node offers so much more flexibility, portability and stability that businesses can take advantage of. They can utilize that technology to help them do things like connect to the cloud or use AI. With things like npm you can just plug those right into your application, which is pretty cool.

Robin

Yeah and I think Node.js works in all the clouds. If you have a multi or single cloud strategy, it is going to work for you.

Joe

It is also, if I am not mistaken, the most utilized platform in everyone’s cloud. The other thing that is great about Node-It is great to use at the core of your applications, but if you have something that is resource-intense, you can spin out a worker thread or send that out to another service. Keeping Node at your core is a great option.

Amanda

You have both touched on my next questions which is: What advice and best practices would you give businesses considering leveraging Node for their enterprise applications.

Joe

One thing to keep in mind at the onset is to be very cloud-native focused and cloud-ready focused with your Node.js developments. Think about how developing your Node applications will be integrating with Kubernetes and being able to surface your metrics, and things like that.

Amanda

Yeah definitely. Most of our solutions here at Profound are based in Node. Doing things like offering options for systems integration, API, portability to the cloud, modernizing legacy code… Node is very flexible for all of these options.

Joe

Yeah and getting away from these monolithic applications and moving to a more microservice-oriented architecture is a good way to look at things too. And of course, serverless is great option if that is the right use case, some kind of event-driven architecture is very cost efficient and versatile.

Amanda

That all sounds like really good advice. I know that businesses have a lot to think about when it comes to their technology and Node, and other Open Source languages, are mature, stable, secure and flexible enough to help businesses of all sizes and industries accomplish their goals.

I have one final question: How are you staying sane through quarantine? And have you developed any new hobbies?

Joe

I am staying sane by relying on old hobbies, I am a musician. I have been doing some socially distance and responsible band practices and working on a new record. [Check out some of Joe’s music!]

Robin

That is really cool. My big thing has always been exercise. That has always been my number one thing. OId hobby, I actually just bought a guitar and my son is teaching me to play. I have not played since I was a kid.

Amanda

Wow well maybe you and Joe can collaborate on some musical projects.

Joe

Amazing. I am into it.

Robin

Jamming on our weekly calls.

Amanda

I feel like if there is a silver lining to the quarantine at all it, it is definitely challenging the way we spend our time, and even work. Technology plays a part in that as well. It is definitely an interesting time, but that really cool you both have that in common.

Robin

Yeah and how about you Amanda? What are you doing?

Amanda

I have actually gotten into Youtubing and creating videos on different topics that are my interests like Sci-Fi and video game stuff. I like that you get to interact with people who are interested in the same topics.

Robin

Super cool!

Amanda

Well thanks so much for taking the time and being here today. It was really great to talk to you both and learn more about the foundation and all it has to offer.

Robin

Thanks Amanda and thanks to the Profound Logic team for hosting us.

Joe

Yeah thank you so much. Great to be here.

Amanda

I wanted to take the time to direct everyone to OpenJSF.org to take advantage of all the foundation has to offer. That includes Open Source training and certification, collaboration with the community, and learning more about the projects and how to be a part of that.

Thanks for taking the time to join us, and we will talk to you next time!