Streams – Solving I/O Bound Problems – Streams in 0.8

Streams – Solving I/O Bound Problems – Streams in 0.8

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Solving I/O Bound Problems with NodeJS

On Github EvanOxfeld / streams-0.10-presentation


Solving I/O Bound Problems

Created by Evan Oxfeld / @evanoxfeld

  • Show of hands if you've tried NodeJS
  • Show of hands if you've done any async programming


  • Server-side JS platform built on Chrome's V8 engine
  • Easily build fast, scalable network applications
  • Event-driven, non-blocking

I/O bound problems

  • E.g. database, LDAP, REST call, call to ext. service
  • You're reading from / writing to slow interfaces
  • I/O bound if the interfaces, not the CPU, not memory constrains the problem


  • Explore I/O bound problems in Node
  • Explore Streams API

You'll not only have the knowledge to use Streams, but also write your own

Streams Example - Unzip

  • Similar to unix pipes
  • Streams are readable, writable, or both


Behind the curtain

Stream in node 0.8 inherits from EventEmitter

util.pump(readable, writable)

  • Sets up event handlers for 'data', 'end'
  • Ignores other events e.g. 'error', 'close'
  • API limits customization, not chainable

Streams in 0.8

  • Looks more like JavaScript - pipes are chainable
  • 0.8 was the stable version of node prior to 3/11/2013

Streams in 0.8

  • Readable
    • Emit data events
    • Optionally implement pause() and resume()
  • Writable
    • Implement write() and end()

Awesome! Let's demo!

Issues - Backpressure

Readable Writable

What happened?

  • Naive implementation didn't handle buffering and backpresure
  • Backpressure - stream signals to its source to stop sending data

Issues - Backpressure

Readable Writable

write() returns false; stream is full

Issues - Backpressure

Readable Writable

Writable emits 'drain' to signal it's ok to resume

Issues - Backpressure

More Issues

  • Buffering and backpressure
  • No on.('pipe') method
  • pause() isn't a guarantee
  • Backpressure is a dance, hyperactivity is bad
  • Data events start immediately (big problem at scale)
    • Data starts before event handlers set up

Streams of Tomorrow, Finally Here

Streams in 0.10

  • Readable streams are now suck streams
  • read([size]) is equivalent to write(data)
    • read() returns null if less data is buffered than size
    • write() return false or pass a callback
  • Object mode
  • Same composable pipe API
  • Shared base classes for backpressure and buffering
  • Readable/writable/duplex was one base class in Node 0.8
  • highWaterMark option (16kb default) determines how much data is buffered

Streams 0.10 Base Classes

  • Readable, Writable, Duplex
  • Transform: implement _transform(chunk, encoding, cb)
  • PassThrough: no method to implement
Transform - output connected somewhat to input. Saves implementing both _read() and _write()

Example stream.Transform Code!

Unzip Demo


  • Stream API is great for solving I/O bound problems
  • Streams2 developed in the open with a parallel user-land module
  • Now you can use and write streams.
  • If you have an I/O bound problem
    • Can you leverage NodeJS to solve it?
    • Or think about what's possible with your current languages/platforms
@substackStreams make programming in node simple, elegant, and composable.