GoDaddy acquires an interesting Node.js-centric startup

GoDaddy is continuing its effort to upgrade its infrastructure into something more modern by acquiring Nodejitsu, a Node.js-centric platform-as-a-service provider, the web-hosting company announced today. GoDaddy did not disclose the financial terms of the deal, which was rumored to close this week, but a spokesperson said that four Nodejitsu employees will be coming on board. Given the popularity of Node.js, which just got its own open-source foundation, the deal makes sense for GoDaddy, which has spent the past couple of years modernizing its technology through acquisitions, mobile development and even the creation of its own content-delivery network.

Node.js is getting its own open-source, independent foundation

Node.js, the popular server-side JavaScript framework, is getting its own open-source foundation and will no longer be governed by Joyent, the cloud-infrastructure provider plans to announce on Tuesday. It should take around two to three months before the foundation is formally established, and until then, Joyent will remain the corporate steward of the Node.js open-source project, according to Joyent.

The new Node.js Foundation — which will include the founding members of Joyent, [company]IBM[/company], [company]Paypal[/company], [company]Microsoft[/company], Fidelity and The Linux Foundation — is the next logical step after the establishment of the Node.js advisory board in October 2014 and it will help take the load off of Joyent’s plate. Joyent has been the corporate steward of the Node.js project for the last five years, explained Joyent CEO Scott Hammond.

Node.js is typically used to build low-latency applications, which are the type of apps that can gather and exchange data between the server environment and the front-end in real time. [company]PayPal[/company], [company]Dow Jones[/company], [company]Walmart[/company] and [company]LinkedIn[/company] are some of the companies that are public with their use of the framework.

“If you are writing a walkie-talkie app for the mobile phone, you want that to be real-time communication,” said Hammond in reference to the types of applications one can build using Node.js.

The framework was created in 2009 by a Joyent employee named Ryan Dahl and has relied on Joyent to foster the project since then. Since that time, Node.js’s popularity has ballooned and it now counts over 2 million downloads per month. Even GoDaddy has been a supporter of the framework and it looks like the web-hosting company is close to buying a Node-centric PaaS called Nodejitsu.

However, there’s been a bit of commotion within the Node.js community over the way the project has been managed by Joyent, specifically regarding the long wait times between new releases that have contributed to user discontent.


A group of disgruntled Node.js contributors forked the open-source project and put up its own project called io.js on Github in December, but apparently both sides are open to eventually joining forces again, said Hammond.

“We have kept them abreast with what we are doing,” said Hammond. “I think we are both interested in aligning those projects.”

The new governance board will be responsible for handling the project’s finances, fundraising, trade shows, marketing, code of conduct and all the other details that encompass running an open-source project, explained Hammond. The point is to free Joyent from having the final say as to what goes on with Node.js.

“It helps distribute the work of overseeing the project instead of us being solely responsible for a lot of the decisions going on,” said Hammond. “So it’s not just Joyent making a certain decision, it is the community speaking.”

Joyent turned to the Linux Foundation for help in creating an open-source foundation “that is unique to Node.js” and spent the last few months working on a game plan as to how to how it would do so.

How the new foundation will look like

The new foundation will be split into two separate groups: the board of directors and the technical committee, in which there is already a core team in place, as described on the Node.js website.

It’s still to be determined which organizations will be part of the board of directors, but the plan is to have a three-tiered system in which the board consists of representatives from companies who have to sign up to either a platinum, gold or silver membership, explained Hammond.

At the platinum level, members will be expected to pay $250,000 a year, which includes having a company representative as a board member. Gold members will pay on a sliding scale of $50,000 to $100,000 a year based on their employee headcount and they will also have to vote on who from those gold-member organizations will become board members; one out of every three gold-level organizations will end up having a representative on the board, said Hammond.

Bryan Cantrill, SVP of engineering for Joyent

Bryan Cantrill, CTO for Joyent

Silver members will pay on a sliding scale of $5,000 to $25,000 and like gold members, they will have to vote on which people from other silver-member companies will become board members; Hammond said that one out of every ten silver-member companies will have a board representative.

The technical committee will also vote on a technical committee member to become a board member, explained Hammond.

Joyent will be granted a gold membership, but will not have to pay a fee for at least a couple of years because of the fact that it has been running the Node.js project and is now “moving the project into the community,” said Hammond.

When asked how the foundation can ensure that everyone on the board of directors has an equal say and this doesn’t turn into a “pay-to-play” situation, Hammond said that won’t be the case and “the organizations that are writing checks to sponsor the foundation are the ones who are adding the money to the budget to further the development of the Node committee.” This means that the board members all contribute cash into a general fund, which is then used to fund projects, like tradeshows, meet-up groups, API validation and other Node.js-related management issues.

Taking a load off of Joyent’s plate

Hammond is hoping that with the new Node.js foundation, coders will eventually see less gaps between feature releases and a more streamlined way of managing the project, which has grown so much that the fledging Joyent would stand to benefit from not having to oversee such an endeavor.

For Joyent, it gives the company a change to buckle down and focus on its core cloud business, which the company, banking on the popularity of containers, is hoping can compete with cloud giants like [company]Amazon[/company], [company]Microsoft[/company] and [company]Google[/company], not to mention legacy companies like [company]IBM[/company] and [company]HP[/company].

Joyent and Docker together

Joyent and Docker together

The company recently open-sourced its SmartDataCenter open-source cloud management platform and Manta object-storage systems in an attempt to gain some developer momentum and interest to its cloud. However, the company also saw the departures of two well-known higher-ups, Mark Cavage and Ben Rockwood, who decamped to Oracle and Chef, respectively.

Joyent will still play a large role in the Node.js community, Hammond said, as the Joyent public cloud uses Node.js and many of the company’s technologies, like Manta, are written using the framework. With the cloud company recently launching the Node.js incubator program, which will see Joyent giving selected participants up to $25,000 in Joyent Cloud hosting credits to develop Node.js applications on the Joyent cloud, it’s clear that the company sees Node.js as a way to lure coders to its own cloud.

Whether the formation of the new open-source foundation will please Node.js users who may have turned to io.js remains to be seen, but it seems that Joyent is trying to do something to remedy the situation — it just can’t do it all on its own.

StrongLoop Arc aims to manage the whole Node.js API lifecycle

As we know from the recent dustup around the forking of Node.js, people are passionate about that server-side JavaScript run-time environment. Now StrongLoop, a startup formed to provide commercial support for Node.js, is bringing together several tools to enable Node.js  API creation from inception to deployment all from one console.

The product, StrongLoop Arc, promises a single user interface for composing and managing APIs in Node.js so a developer can design her APIs; connect them to data sources (new or legacy); build and deploy the application.

The product incorporates both updated versions of existing products — for example, StrongLoop Studio for creating the APIs — as well as new capabilities to handle the whole lifecycle of API development, said Issac Roth, StrongLoop co-founder and chief products officer.

“The cool thing is now you can create, deploy and operate your APIs in Node. That was not the case before — you could use [company]New Relic[/company] for monitoring, Node Inspector for inspection, StrongLoop’s own StrongOps for profiling and Chef or Puppet for deployment … We put that all together in a Node-specific way, ” Roth said.

A lifecycle management bundle for REST APIs

Roth acknowledged a possible downside in that this toolset requires the developer to stick to a guided path, but he thinks many developers will accept that. Rest APIs, in his view, are taking over the enterprise, with everyone from [company]Oracle[/company] and [company]IBM[/company] to [company]Apigee[/company] embracing REST as a de facto standard to ensure that web apps can communicate and interoperate with each other.

That means “we sort of need something Microsoftian,” Roth said. [company]Microsoft[/company] is known for bundling development tools into Visual Studio, which has become a single application development tool chest.

But while Visual Studio offers API creation tools and Apigee has a runtime management service for APIs, Roth claimed that no one — until now — has had a total lifecycle offering for APIs.

Products like the popular New Relic target a broader array of platforms and frameworks. If you’re a developer focusing on Node.js, you may want to take a look at StrongLoop Arc but these products are not mutually exclusive, Roth said.

Al Tsang, co-founder and CTO of Strongloop demonstrates Arc.

Al Tsang, co-founder and CTO of StrongLoop, demonstrates Arc.

Mending Node.js fences

As for the Node.js fork fight that erupted a few weeks ago, things have settled down, according to both Roth and Angel Diaz, IBM’s VP of open standards.

The kerfuffle was sparked by “pent-up demand” for a new release. The io.js fork was proposed under a voting governance model, while the Joyent-backed group, with a new advisory board, will deal with vendor backers like IBM, Microsoft and StrongLoop as well as big users like Netflix, Paypal and Walmart.

“We’d like to see a unified community around a single Node technical project, so that’s what we’re working toward in the Node Advisory board and io.js simultaneously. I believe we’re going to get there,” Roth said.

This week Diaz told me that the advisory board is the first step toward opening up the governance of Node.js. Once that happens, “the spigots open and everyone has a transparent way to contribute. The reason all this has happened is that much needs to be done for Node.js to be viable for big customers.”

Fork in the road for Node.js

Node.js, the popular server-side JavaScript environment, may be heading for a fork as a group outside of Joyent has posted its own project on Github.

[company]Joyent[/company] has been the de facto guardian of Node.js for some time, but now another group appears to be backing io.js implementation, according to Infoworld, Wired and other sources this week.

Here’s the blurb from the Github io.js Readme file on the project:

This repository began as a GitHub fork of joyent/node where contributions, releases, and contributorship are under an open governance model.

We intend to land, with increasing regularity, releases which are compatible with the npm ecosystem that has been built to date for node.js.

The feeling among the io.js contingent seems to be that Joyent’s move in October to set up a Node.js Advisory Board came too late to settle differences in how the project is managed. Infoworld’s Paul Krill interviewed io.js contributor Mikeal Rogers about why the group went this route.

No one can say this is a surprise. There’s been angst in Node.js land at least since late last year when a spat erupted between two top Node.js contributors, which caused considerable bad feeling.

Talking to media, Joyent CTO Bryan Cantrill downplayed concerns that the dual projects will lead to fragmentation and said Joyent has reached out to the io.js team.

The stakes are high. Node.js has seen great traction in companies including [company]LinkedIn[/company], [company]PayPal[/company], Uber, [company]Yahoo[/company] and [company]The New York Times[/company].

Presumably, none of these Node.js players want that momentum to stall.

Bryan Cantrill at Structure 2014. Credit: Jakub Mosur

Bryan Cantrill at Structure 2014

Photo credit: Jakub Mosur

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