MEAN Stack Development

by Sreejith Partha

Mean stack development is a preferred way to develop projects and maintain efficiency. The mean stack development approach ensures that a team can build websites, web applications, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and other software using a single set of tools. This article discusses how the mean stack approach offers a variety of benefits for digital teams.

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 start-ups.

What Is the MEAN Stack?

The MEAN stack is a software architecture for web development that uses MongoDB, Express, AngularJS, and Node.js. The MEAN stack is a popular choice among developers because it provides a flexible framework for building websites and applications quickly without having to worry about certain aspects of the development process. Undoubtedly, Javascript is essential for any 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. For developers, the key attraction is likely 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 offers availability, flexibility, and scalability in the NoSQL database. The ‘E’ is for ‘Express.js,’ a web application framework that works on top of Node.js to manage interactions between the front and back end. The ‘A’ stands for ‘Angular.js,’ a popular frontend Javascript framework.  Finally, the ‘N’ is ‘Node.js,’ 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 composing the MEAN stack let’s dive deeper to understand each letter’s functionality.

1.  M – MongoDB:

MongoDB is a schema-less NoSQL database 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 also be changed. One of the 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 front end 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 backend framework for Node.js that is well-accepted because it simplifies routing, supports the Connect module, and offers valuable 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 compared 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 frontend 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 to develop an application’s front end. 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 both the server and the client can initiate communication, unlike in the past when only the client could create 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 mainly geared towards handling multiple low-resource requests simultaneously rather than high-resource requests. 

The Popularity of MEAN Stack Technologies

Several high-profile companies approve the technologies that form the MEAN stack. 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.

The use of these technologies by industry giants supports that the demand for expertise in these Javascript technologies is bound to increase in the upcoming years.

Advantages of MEAN Stack Development

Here are some of the pros that contribute toward 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 and Node.js effectively solves the problem of search engine indexing since search engine crawlers do not support client-side rendering. 

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

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 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 simultaneously work on different parts of the code. 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 the Angular.js frontend receives the data without hassle. 

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 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 minor learning curve. 

MongoDB uses the cloud for application functionality, resulting in a low disc space requirement. Deployment cost is also typical for MEAN stack applications since the open source technologies are accessible, 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 to work independently from the main program, meaning that applications dash.

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:

Lastly, 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 traditional relational databases. Similarly, Angular.js can be 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 equally popular among start-ups. Developing innovative websites and web applications is simplified using the MEAN stack because the technologies work together. Partnering with someone with skills, expertise, and experience in developing MEAN stack applications is the key to success in this field.

Sreejith Partha (Sree) is the CEO of Practical Logix, leading an outstanding engineering and product team. He enjoys being hands on, when it comes to product strategy, architecture and processes. Sree has cultivated a culture at PL where no one is secluded from the bigger picture, helping the stakeholders trickle down the passion of their brand to every team member, producing a better outcome.

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