I’ve recently built a product in Node JS, and it was a very positive experience (more on that in another blog post). I’m now looking around at what I need to do to package it all up for customers and entrepreneurs – hosting, developer meetups, that sort of thing. I’m looking for the wider ecosystem that customers can tap into. I’m a bit surprised at what I found during my research, and I thought I’d share it in case anyone else can add to it.

Why Hosting Matters

Let’s not beat about the bush here. As a rule, Node JS’s target audience probably doesn’t know enough to safely and securely run their own Internet-connected servers. It isn’t their skillset. A customer using Node JS really needs someone to look after all of that for them.

That isn’t a service I want to have to build myself if I don’t have to. For the customers I’m targeting, being able to say, “go there, sign up, and deploy to their cloud, and they’ll look after it all for you” is the right solution for everyone.

Where Is All The Hosting?

With all the buzz and hype around Node JS, it seems reasonable to think that there’d be plenty of cloud providers out there offering Node JS hosting services. Not the “here’s how to install it into a VPS”-type stuff, but a Heroku / Engine Yard-like service targeted at Node JS.

However, a quick Google for “nodejs hosting” turned up the following results on the front page:

  • 1 hosting provider which is public, free, and unable to provision new services when I tried (No.de)
  • 3 hosting services in private beta (Nodester, NodeSocket, and NodeJitsu.
  • … and zero paid-for ads offering Node JS hosting.

No.de is the hosting service from Joyent, who are the current guardians of the Node JS project itself. Their Node JS product page directs you to the No.de service. But unfortunately, No.de is a limited-capacity service, and you can only get your app on there if you’re lucky enough to catch them when there is spare capacity. Joyent do offer a VPS w/ Node JS pre-installed, but you’d be hard-pressed to find the product if you didn’t know it existed, as it isn’t linked to from their Node JS page at all.

The other three services all look interesting (NodeJitsu in particular caught my eye), but I can’t sit down in a sales meeting today and recommend any of them to a customer, because until they are public services, I can’t be sure that my customers can get a login and get their apps deployed and running.

But what really caught my eye is that no-one seems to be using Google AdWords to advertise their Node JS hosting service right now. That’s a significant smell, and a big surprise to me. I don’t want to draw any conclusions about that, just simply ask the question: does it mean that there’s an opportunity that isn’t being exploited yet, or does it mean that the opportunity isn’t big enough yet for folks to invest in?

Where Are The Community Meet-ups?

As well as hosting, I’m also interested in being able to introduce customers to other Node JS users, preferably through established developer meetup groups. From the customer’s perspective, being part of a community helps them broaden their skills and experience, and potentially helps them find new employees if they start to grow. From my perspective, the most valuable marketing of all is word of mouth, and having customers going to meetups and saying that they’re using our product because it solves their problems is a very important way of finding new customers.

We’re just outside London, which is a veritable hive of startup activity these days. But looking on Meetup.com for existing meetups for Node JS, all I could find is this waiting list. I did find the London Node User Group via Lanyrd, and I plan on trundling over to their next meetup on Wednesday, but that was it.

We seem to have meetups coming out of our ears in London right now on all sorts of technical topics; the lack of ones focused on Node really does stand out.

Thoughts And Conclusions

For a product that has had a lot of sustained buzz, and which is a good solution for some technical problems, the almost complete absence of an ecosystem around Node JS caught me completely by surprise. Are we just ahead of the curve, and using Node JS very early on in its adoption? Are there resources out there that I’ve just failed to find? Or is Node JS actually just another passing trend which failed to get enough traction?

I don’t know. Your thoughts and comments most welcome below!

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So that I don’t forget how to do this next time around. Worked for me, your mileage may vary.

First step is to get a working install of PHP.

  1. Download PHP 5.4.latest ZIP file from the PHP Windows website
  2. Unpack the ZIP file into c:php. You should end up with c:phpphp.exe
  3. Copy c:phpphp.ini-development to be c:phpphp.ini
  4. Edit c:phpphp.ini to suit (e.g. set date.timezone)
  5. Make sure you add c:php to your system PATH (via Computer’s Advanced Properties -> Environment Variables)
  6. Reboot (this is Windows, after all 🙂

At this point, you should be able to open up a Command Prompt, and type ‘php -v’, and see the response ‘PHP v5.4.latest …’ appear as expected.

Now for PEAR itself.

  1. Open http://pear.php.net/go-pear.phar in a browser, save this file into c:php
  2. In a Command Prompt, cd to c:php and then run “php c:phpgo-pear.phar”
  3. At the prompt, select ‘system’. A text menu of paths will appear
  4. Fix the default path for pear.ini (option 11) to be c:phppear.ini
  5. Fix the default folder to look inside for php.exe to be c:php
  6. Make sure the binaries folder (option 4) is c:php
  7. Check all of the other options, make sure they are prefixed with c:php
  8. Press ENTER, and you should see PEAR downloading various PEAR packages onto your system
  9. Double-click the PEAR_ENV.reg file in c:php
  10. Reboot again to make sure PEAR_ENV registry entries have taken effect

At this point, PEAR is installed and should be available to use in your own projects, or with something like Phix.

Personal Notes

Some reminders to myself for the next time I have to do this.

  • Documentation for PHP for Windows and PEAR for Windows both seem to be out of step with current downloads. There’s currently no Windows installer for PHP available, and the PHP .ZIP file doesn’t contain the ‘go-pear.bat’ file.
  • You have to pay close attention to the default folders offered when running ‘go-pear.phar’. They appear to use the current working directory as the prefix even when installing system-wide, except for the location of pear.ini and php.exe – neither of these defaults are sane, and must be manually changed during the install 🙁
  • After install, pear command doesn’t seem to be 100% compatible with its behaviour on Linux and OS X. -D switch didn’t work, there may be other problems too that I haven’t yet found.
  • Both reboots are required – I’m not taking the piss there – for all running Windows apps to pick up the changes.
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