How To – Node.js Multithreading | Creating apps for High Loads & Worldwide Traffic

You’ve made it! You have a beautifully crafted Node.js app and you’re ready to show it to the world. Or so you think. On today’s global Internet, trends are born within a day, customers come from everywhere in the world, and nothing is worse for a newly opened web app or service than crashing under the load at the apex of its fame. In order to mitigate this issue, we’ll be creating a sample Node.js application in order to look at a few things including Node.js multithreading, creating a sample Node.js application, and more.

Developing for High Load

Fortunately, using affordable solutions and clever programming, you can make sure that once the users come, your app will be ready to sustain the load. In this tutorial, we’ll look at how we can leverage the power of the SkySilk cloud, Cloudflare’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) and Node.js multithreading capabilities to make an app that’s performant and globally accessible.

Before we start

This tutorial assumes that you own a domain name and know how to edit its nameservers. You do not need an existing Node.js app to follow this tutorial.

Setting up a VPS and a sample Node.js Application

Before diving into Node.js performance optimization and global content distribution, we first need a sample Node.js application and a server to host it.  For purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to set up a Small SkySilk VPS on the Standard plan, and initialize it with the Node.js template.


The Small hardware configuration is the cheapest option with multiple vCPUs, which I’ll need to demonstrate multithreading. The Standard plan is also a good choice for this use-case because it provides us with 5x the amount of bandwidth (Up to 500 Mbps) and backups/snapshots are enabled. The total cost for this setup is an affordable $20/month (and only $11/month after applying current discounts).

Deploy My Node.js VPS

Creating a Node.js App

We’re going to start by creating a simple boilerplate for our app.js file. The code is as follows:

As you can see, it’s a pretty bare web server without any external dependencies that simply sends back a message when the server is started. In the server.listen() method, our app is now listening on port 8080 for testing purposes. In a real-life scenario, app.js would be the entry point for your application, but this placeholder is all we need to start exploring Node.js performance optimization.

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Learn how to create a larger Node.js app: check out this tutorial on making a real-time chat web app.

Node.js Multithreading: Taking advantage of all available resources

By default, Node.js runs scripts in a single thread – which means your app runs in a single process. On systems with multiple processor cores like your computer or our “Small” SkySilk VPS, this means that only one core will be used to run your app. By restructuring our app to work with multiple threads, we can use the power of all the available processor cores on our system – this is called multithreading.

To do so, we’re going to use Node’s built-in [Cluster](https://nodejs.org/docs/latest/api/cluster.html) module, which allows for easy creation of child processes that all share server ports. Essentially, dividing the work of handling our web server’s requests between multiple processes which the system will automatically assign to each (v)CPU core.

We’re now going to create a new file, index.js, in which a “Master” will be tasked to start as many child processes (“Workers”) as we have vCPU cores. Each of those processes will start our app.js script.

You can now start your multithreaded app using the command, node index.js. On our 2 vCPUs VPS, this gives the following output:

Seeing Multithreading in Action

As you can see, our “Master” script successfully detected 2 available cores and spawned 2 “worker” threads. Each of those threads started our app.js script and you can see that the Server created! output line from that file is logged twice.

You may be wondering how our sample Node.js application can run two servers on the same port, at the same time? What’s so interesting about using Cluster is that in most cases we don’t need to modify our original app to make it multithreaded. All traffic on port 8080 (which is the port our app defines), will go through the “Master” thread. Node will automatically divide the load between all our workers that listen to that port.

Try replacing the following line in our demo app.js:

Now start the server again using node index.js and access the page at :8080 (or localhost:8080 if you’re developing locally) in your browser. Reload the page using your browser’s no-cache reloading (Ctrl+F5 on Chrome & Firefox) and you should see that your requests are sometimes directed to a different worker. Congratulations, your app now implements Node.js multithreading and is ready to scale on anything from a 1-core machine to a 64 CPUs mainframe!

You may also be interested in: How to Set Up a Node.js Server on a Linux VPS

Global Content Delivery Network using Cloudflare

OK, we’re now using all of our available processing power, but we’re not quite ready yet. Here are a few things we still need to address:

  • We’re still running on a single server
  • We’re still serving our content from a single geographic point

In theory, you could simply keep adding more servers around the world with increasingly powerful hardware as demand grows. Albeit, this would become very expensive quickly. There has to be a smarter solution, right? The answer is of course. Introducing, Content Delivery Networks, or CDN for short.

Content Delivery Networks

A CDN is essentially a distributed network of caches that keep a copy of the resources you send from your server at multiple Points of Presence (POPs) that are closer to your end-users than your own infrastructure. Here is a useful GIF from Cloudflare which explains this concept really well:


Cloudflare is one of the most well-known “public” CDNs. It comes with a free plan that will also allow you to set up a secure SSL connection between your app and its users. It will also allow you to mitigate any DDoS attacks that target you. To set it up for your app, you’ll need to create an account with them and change the nameservers of your domain name. Once you’re done, we’ll need to slightly adjust our Node app to allow the CDN to cache our content:

Using the cache-control HTTP header, we can target specific resources to be cached by Cloudflare’s CDN. The more resources we let the CDN cache, the less traffic we need to actually serve ourselves. Although, be careful not to cache dynamic pages of your app. This includes access-restricted account settings and to always set a reasonable maximum age.


Create My Own Node.js Server

Our Multithreaded Node.js App: Conclusion

Congratulations! You now know two of the most effective, and affordable techniques to prepare your app for sustaining high loads. Your sample Node.js application can now also handle traffic from anywhere in the world. Here’s a quick recap of the two main topics discussed throughout this quick tutorial:

Multithreading

Remember,  by restructuring our app to work with multiple threads, we are utilizing all of the available power from the processor cores on our system. This optimization creates “worker” threads to handle multiple processes.

Using a CDN

We also implemented the use of a CDN (Content Delivery Network) within our app using Cloudflare. By using this we can cache content which the servers deliver to those requesting access depending on location. Hence the term, content delivery network!


This article was provided by Gaby ‘Squared’ Saillard. Industrial Engineering Student & Creative Hobbyist Developer. Check out Gaby’s website Follow Gaby on GitHub

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