PHP vs. Node.js

PHP vs. Node.js

Earlier, PHP and JavaScript supported many essential segments of the internet. In those days, PHP handled all the server-related tasks while JavaScript managed browser-related details. Later on, with the emergence of technology, it has become possible to run JavaScript on the server. After this advancement,  Node.js came into the picture. And, in the meanwhile, PHP’s popularity had been fading. The way Node.js has been evolving shows that the JavaScript framework is popular among developers. This leads to the re-designing and re-writing of the PHP code base. Now, PHP is not the same as it used to be in its earlier days. It has improved a lot. 

Some developers are fascinated with Node.js because of JavaScript simplicity, while some others are happy with the strong code base and long-term stability of PHP. If you are confused about which one is suitable for your business projects, here is some information to get you started. 

What is PHP?

PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. It is open-source server-side scripting (a technique in which a user’s request is run on the web server) language used for web development. You can use PHP code in HTML pages to generate dynamic web pages quickly. It is compatible with all popular operating systems (including Windows, Linux, Mac OS, and Unix) and supports all major web servers like Netscape, Apache, Microsoft IIS, etc. Its code is interpreted by Zend Engine.

 A brief history of PHP

  • PHP was designed by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994. He used PHP to maintain his personal home page, but later he enhanced it by enabling PHP to connect with databases and web forms.  
  • Earlier PHP stands for Personal Home Page.
  • It made a public release in 1995. 
  • It is influenced by PERL, C, C++, and JavaScript.

What is Node.js?

Node.js is a free and open-source platform that runs on JavaScript to develop web-based applications. It is built on Chrome V8 JavaScript engine (the same engine that is used by the Google Chrome web browser) that compiles the JavaScript code much faster. It uses event-driven architecture and non-blocking I/O capability that makes it suitable for building highly scalable applications. 

Some facts about Node.js

  • Node.js was developed by Ryan Dahl in 2009.
  • Unlike PHP, Node.js doesn’t need a separate web server.  
  • It uses npm package manager- the largest software registry in the world.
  • Tech-giants including IBM, GoDaddy, PayPal, LinkedIn, and Netflix are also adopting Node.js. 

Difference between PHP and Node.js

1. PHP has a sound code base while Node.js has more modern features

Popular platforms for building websites (including Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress) are written in PHP. PHP has a deep code base. However, for better performance, developers need to optimize the PHP code well, like: using proper native PHP functions, string functions, methods, caching techniques, etc.  

On the other hand, Node.js has modern features and interfaces. With its features like Node streams, module caching, event-driven architecture, it is capable of handling multiple client requests simultaneously with ease. It has a modern syntax that helps developers to easily configure and extend the application. But as compared to PHP, Node.js requires more lines of code. Also, Node.js developers must have a good understanding of callback functions and closures.  

Look at the given chart. It displays the total number of concurrent requests per second. 

(image credit: www.toptal.com)

From this chart, we can see that Node.js handles multiple concurrent requests in less time as compared to PHP. 

An example to understand how coding strategy differs in PHP and Node.js

Suppose you want to add new sections into your website. In PHP, you just need to open PHP tags and start writing codes in HTML (called mixing code with HTML content). Due to this, it becomes difficult to maintain and extend the code in PHP. 

But Node.js doesn’t follow the ‘mixing code with HTML content’ approach. It implements a Model View Controller (MVC) architecture in which the view level (user interface layer) is separated from the logical structure (business logic). This, in turn, helps developers to write a more organized and maintainable code that can be easily extendible in the future.


2. PHP is mostly synchronous while Node.js is asynchronous

Before delving into this point, let’s understand what synchronous and asynchronous program code means.

  1. Synchronous: In this, one line of the code is executed at a time. The next line of code is executed only when the previous line of code has been executed completely.    
  2. Asynchronous: In this, the entire code is executed at once. It means two threads can run parallelly and are independent of each other. They don’t interrupt each other at the time of execution. 

The given image shows how execution time is faster in the asynchronous program code than the synchronous program code.

(image credit: http://www.phpmind.com)

 How does PHP code work differently from Node.js code?

  

The PHP code is usually synchronous. But, it behaves in an asynchronous manner if it is used with some kind of APIs (that are also asynchronous). Node.js is always asynchronous. 
If a line of synchronous PHP code has some function that is taking time to execute, then the next line of code will also have to wait until the complete execution of the previous line. This extends overall execution time of the code.  In this, the entire code is executed at once. No lines of code need to wait for the successful execution of its previous line of code. Therefore, Node.js is fast as compared to PHP code.

But, there are certain situations in which Node.js faces issues. Sometimes the program gets stuck when the code contains a lot of functions and callbacks. This leads the Node.js code to execute in a synchronous manner. In this case, developers need to pipe data from one function to the other.


3.  PHP works well with MySQL while Node.js interacts well with NoSQL 

PHP is often used with traditional databases such as MySQL, MariaDB, and PostgreSQL. This enables developers to easily integrate a PHP project with an SQL database. With emerging technologies, more bits of intelligence are adding to databases. This, in turn, has reduced the complexities that come while interfacing the PHP code with the database.

Node.js works fine with SQL, but it can also interact well with the latest NoSQL database. Though NoSQL can work with PHP code as well but not with the same level of simplicity as with Node.js. The data format of Node.js (called JSON) follows a similar syntax from browser to server to the database. 


4. Unlike Node.js, PHP is suitable for CPU intensive applications

Node.js event-based architecture and single threaded approach makes it unsuitable for CPU-intensive tasks (scientific apps, editing or generating graphics, video or audio, etc.). It can easily handle multiple concurrent requests but it becomes sluggish and unresponsive with graphics operations. However, you can manage CPU intensive tasks in Node.js by adding new layers to your Node.JS application. Whereas, PHP consists of few variables and basic functions for juggling strings and numbers. Developing and managing CPU-intensive tasks is easy in PHP. 

Let’s have a look at the given chart. It displays number of milliseconds to complete CPU-intensive operations.  

(image credit: www.toptal.com)

From this chart, we depict that- PHP took 110.97 milliseconds to execute CPU-intensive operations and Node.js took 206.798 milliseconds to execute CPU-intensive tasks. 

PHP vs Node.js code execution test

The screenshots below show the time taken( in milliseconds) by PHP and Node.js code (including concatenations of strings, adding numbers, filling of arrays, reading files and MySQL queries).

  1. PHP code test:

(Image credit: https://thinkmobiles.com

2. Node.js code test:

(Image credit: https://thinkmobiles.com

If we focus on the timings of PHP and Node.js code tests, we note that:

  • Node.js is slower than PHP in executing- concatenations of strings, adding numbers, filling of arrays, reading files and MySQL queries.
  • PHP is slower than Node.js in executing adding numbers (1000000 times) tasks. 

5.  Unlike Node.js, no client app is needed in PHP (they build everything on server)

PHP is specifically designed for simple web-based applications that include all basic functionalities to manage servers, HTML and databases (especially MySQL). In PHP, all web pages can be easily rendered and generated on the server (reducing the overload on the client side), eradicating the need to bother about Javascript in the browser. , Node.js is a great foundation for heavy server-side rendering, complex web-based apps, and rich client-side functionalities. It is suitable for applications that require constant client-server interaction. 


Application Scenarios for PHP and Node.js:

PHP

  • Developing CPU-intensive applications
  • Content Management Systems (WordPress or Drupal)
  • Applications that use LAMP stack. If you don’t know what LAMP stack is, then here is some basic information for you:

What is a LAMP stack? 

  1. It is a set of open-source application, used to create web-based applications.
  2. LAMP stands for- Linux operating system, the Apache HTTP Server, the MySQL relational database management system, and the PHP programming language.
Note-  PHP is the best solution if your client prefers a shared hosting service instead of a full-fledged virtual cloud instance. It is a portable web application solution that can run on almost any server (Apache, Nginx) and any operating systems. Thus, it makes the deployment and integration process easier.

Node.js

  • Building single-page applications, real-time chats, collaboration apps, microservices, IoT applications, streaming apps and more. 

            Related link: Types of applications that can be built by Node.js    

  • Developing highly scalable server-side applications (with its non-blocking I/O and event-driven architecture). 
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