MEAN Stack Development

MEAN Stack Development

by Alexander Zhitskiy

Over the past several years, the MEAN stack has continuously gained popularity among full stack developers. An increasing number of developers are joining the bandwagon specifically because it’s an all Javascript stack, with Javascript being used at each layer.

This architecture is highly efficient, and increased functionality can be achieved with minimal lines of code. Also, the MEAN stack provides the much-required scalability and speed when creating an MVP, which is one of the main reasons for its increasing adoption among startups. Finally, its relatively small learning curve is an added bonus.

What Is the MEAN Stack?

Undoubtedly, Javascript is essential for any kind of web development. Thus, the MEAN stack is a mix of some of the most sought-after Javascript-based technologies, including MongoDB, Express.js, Angular.js, and Node.js.

These technologies work synergistically to deliver regular website pages, innovative IOT solutions, and facets in between. For developers, it is likely that the key attraction is using a single language for both frontend and backend development.

Technologies Composing the MEAN Stack

The ‘M’ in the MEAN stack stands for ‘MongoDB,’ which is a NoSQL database that offers high-availability, flexibility, and scalability. The ‘E’ is for ‘Express.js,’ which is a web application framework that works on top of Node.js to manage interactions between the frontend and the backend. The ‘A’ stands for ‘Angular.js,’ which is a popular frontend Javascript framework.

Finally, the ‘N’ is ‘Node.js,’ which is an open-source server environment that executes Javascript on the server-side. Node.js serves as the backbone of the MEAN stack and pairs well with the Javascript technologies that form the MEAN stack. Now that we know the technologies that compose the MEAN stack, let’s dive a little deeper to understand each letters’ functionality.

1.  M – MongoDB:

MongoDB is a schema-less NoSQL database that is used for application data-storage in the MEAN stack. Unlike typical relational databases, it does not require a schema design before creating the database.

Instead of tables, MongoDB is document-oriented and uses ‘Binary JSON’ to store data, offering greater flexibility. Further, fields can be modified in the document, and the data structure can be changed, as well. One of the most essential benefits is horizontal scaling and high availability.

In the MEAN stack, there is no need to translate an object on its way to the app from the database or from the database to the frontend since the application and database both use Javascript. MongoDB gained immense popularity with applications utilizing Big Data due to its scalability, high performance, and seamless handling of large volumes of data.

2.  E – Express.js:

Express.js is a minimalist, back-end framework for Node.js that is well-accepted because it simplifies routing, supports the Connect module, and offers useful features and extensions. Also, Express.js accomplishes these tasks without overriding Node.js features that are popular amongst developers.

Further, it enables faster web application development and allows developers to code smartly through code reuse with the help of its built-in router. Getting the server up and running becomes a breeze with Express.js, which might be why Express.js has the largest community in comparison to other frameworks available for Node.js.

In the MEAN stack, Express.js takes care of the backend by managing the two-way data transfers between the front end and the database. It ensures that data reaches the end-users quickly, without glitching. Despite its minimalism, Express.js manages efficient handling of all backend events.

3.  A – Angular.js:

Angular.js is a Javascript front-end framework created by Google. Commonly, Angular.js is used for single-page web applications. However, Angular.js can be used to create any web application.

From handling initial wireframes to animations and transitions for complex websites and applications, Angular.js is packed with features suitable for different scenarios. Using Angular.js, developers can take advantage of features like two-way data binding, modularizations, RESTful API handling, and AJAX handling.

Other features like filters allow data manipulations at the view level without having to implement any changes in the controller. In short, it’s perfect for writing less code that would be redundant without Angular.js.

In the MEAN stack, Angular.js is used for developing the front-end of an application. Since all components of the MEAN stack are Javascript-based, the transfer of data between different layers of a web application becomes seamless. Angular.js can also be used to develop mobile and desktop applications simultaneously.

4.  N – Node.js:

Node.js is a server-side Javascript runtime environment that allows Javascript to run on the server and browser. It is built on Google Chrome’s V8 Javascript runtime, which results in fast and scalable web applications.

Node.js allows two-way connections, meaning that both server and the client can initiate communication; unlike the past where only the client could initiate the data exchange. It also allows simultaneous connections which result in fast, scalable applications.

In the MEAN stack, Node.js is essentially a backbone that connects all the other technologies. For example, Express.js is a framework specific to Node.js, and deploying MongoDB with the built-in Node.js server simplifies many facets.

Further, Angular.js also works well with Node.js to allow fast data transfers. However, Node.js is mostly geared towards handling multiple low-resource requests simultaneously rather than high-resource requests.

The Popularity of MEAN Stack Technologies

The technologies that form the MEAN stack are approved by several high-profile companies. Just to give you an idea of its immense popularity, giants like Linkedin, PayPal, Trello, Uber, and NASA are using Node.js for their main applications.

In addition, Google, Yahoo, Mozilla, and GitHub have also adopted Node.js in their operations. Cisco, Facebook, and eBay use MongoDB while PayPal, Netflix, and Freelancer use Angular.js. Use of these technologies by industry giants support that the demand for expertise in these Javascript technologies is bound to increase in upcoming years.

Advantages of MEAN Stack Development

Here are some of the pros that contribute towards the increasing acceptance of MEAN stack development:

1.  Isomorphic Code:

MEAN stack development facilitates isomorphic coding, which is code that can run on the server and the client side. Code that can be rendered on the browser as well as Node.js effectively solves the problem of search engine indexing since search engines crawlers do not support client-side rendering.

With MEAN stack technologies, frontend and backend are both developed using Javascript, allowing for browser code to run on Node.js with little modification. This interchangeability makes transferring code to other isomorphic frameworks (i.e., React, Vue, and others) simpler.

2.  Open Source Components:

All components of the MEAN stack are open source, which has several benefits. Opens source facilitates a shared community approach to development.

Specifically, the open source community is often dedicated to updating and improving the code, adding new features, and fixing existing bugs. This ensures that the MEAN stack components are always up-to-date. MEAN stack developers get to enjoy being on the cutting-edge of technologies and customizability of the open source code to suit their unique requirements better.

3.  Schema-less NoSQL Database:

The MEAN stack uses MongoDB for storing data, which is a NoSQL database. NoSQL effectively overcomes the limitations of relational databases. It allows for greater flexibility and seamless data model changes.

MongoDB is the obvious choice for handling large volumes of structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data. In the absence of a pre-designed schema, any change in the data model can be introduced in the same document collection without having to disturb older data. This flexible JSON document structure is critical for large applications dealing with Big Data and frequent code changes.

4.  MVC Architecture:

Angular.js supports MVC architecture, allowing for the separation of application logic from the user interface. This facilitates rapid development since multiple developers can work on different parts of the code simultaneously.

Separation of concerns also means a better overall end-user experience. MVC is excellent for developing large-sized applications because it offers multiple views, asynchronous programming, and data returns without formatting.

5.  Javascript Object Notation (JSON):

MongoDB stores data in the form of a document structure using Binary JSON. The MEAN stack uses Javascript-based technologies; hence, data transfer between different layers of the application becomes faster and more efficient without the need for reformatting.

While MongoDB stores data in JSON document structure, queries can be written on Express.js using JSON. Node.js also understands these queries since it’s a Javascript runtime environment, and Angular.js frontend receives the data without hassle, as well.

6.  Cost-Effectiveness and Cloud Compatibility:

Since the entire MEAN stack uses Javascript, all you need for MEAN stack development is Javascript experts. Unlike other stacks that need different languages like PHP, MySQL, and Javascript for different app layers, the application development with the MEAN stack only needs a lean team of Javascript programmers. This also means a relatively smaller learning curve.

MongoDB makes use of the cloud for application functionality, resulting in a low disc space requirement. Deployment cost is also low for MEAN stack applications since the open source technologies are free, and the application can run on a Linux server.

7.  High Speed and Cloud Compatibility:

Node.js is built on Google Chrome’s V8 Javascript runtime, which ensures a fast compilation of Javascript code. Asynchronous programming allows different concurrent events working independently from the main program, meaning that applications run quickly. Adding new features is also quite simple due to the modular architecture of Node.js that allows developers to add a new component/module and modify an existing component without impacting the rest of the system.

8.  A Helpful, Resourceful Community:

Last but not least, the open source community for all the technologies composing the MEAN stack is impressive. Since tech giants and other high-profile companies are already working with the MEAN stack, the community is resourceful and supportive.

Drawbacks of MEAN Stack Development

The MEAN stack does have some drawbacks of its own. For example, MongoDB is not as stable and reliable as the traditional, relational databases. Similarly, Angular.js can be a little tricky and complicated for more straightforward web applications.

Angular.js also does not support older Safari, Internet Explorer, and Firefox versions. Besides, it isn’t the best option for SEO; although, this is a problem well taken care of by Node.js.

Further, the learning curve for Node.js has some different concepts from Javascript. Adopting the MEAN stack should only be an option if these drawbacks are not bothersome.

Conclusion

The above discussion indicates that the MEAN stack is continually evolving, improving, and will remain everlasting. It’s well-adopted by tech-giants like Google and Amazon but is also equally popular among start-ups.

Developing innovative websites and web applications are simplified using the MEAN stack because of how the comprising technologies work with each other. Partnering with someone with skills, expertise, and experience in developing MEAN stack applications is the key to making the best out of these technologies.

Alexander is a senior full stack developer at Practical Logix

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