The Architecture of a New Project

Yesterday I started working with Ajax Push, wrote a quick demo for a friend, and then stripped that and wrote a functional demo project with documentation. I did this to test if Ajax Push worked well enough for another concept project. As it turns out, using APE does work, but, it leaves a little to be desired.

While I was working with APE and tweaking the documentation and demo, a problem I had faced a few weeks back popped into my mind. Using Ajax Push for this application was perfect, it was all server push rather than client communication and the concept would work wonderfully.

What now?

We’re faced with a few dilemmas. This problem is 99% Ajax/Long Polling and 1% frontend. An Android and IOS app need to be developed to interface with the system, but, that is the simple part of the project.


At first I considered Python/Pyramid as the frontend, Varnish for caching content and APE for handling the Ajax Push/Long Polling. I’ll need to write an API to handle the Android and IOS Authenticating and communicating with the system. I suspect my app will become an OAuth2 endpoint for the apps which I’ll explain in a moment.

It was at this point that I realized, I could use node.js and to handle the long polling, but, the frontend requirements are so lightweight, I could do most of the web app in Node.js. Since I’m using node.js quite heavily, I’ll probably use Redis and CouchDB to do my storage – just in case.


Now, I had an epiphany. While I don’t really intend to open the API for the project initially, there’s a certain logic to making your own project utilize the same API that you will later make public. If anything, it makes designing your IOS and Android app easier since they utilize an API rather than relying on separate methods for communications with the webapp. One single interface rather than two and later if Windows Mobile gets an app, we’ve already got the API designed. Since we’re an OAuth2 endpoint, our mobile apps can take advantage of numerous existing libraries – saving quite a bit of time.

Later, if the API is made public, we’re not facing a new engineering challenge and we’ve had some first-hand experience with the API.

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about using ‘the right tool for the job’ and why that is wrong. ‘Use the same language for every part of the project’ is the other school of thought. There are things I know Python does well, there are things I know it doesn’t do well. There are things Erlang can handle, and things it shouldn’t. While I’m not a fan of Javascript, for this project, it really does seem like the right tool for the job. The difference between APE and node.js was Spidermonkey versus V8. In both cases, I’m writing Javascript, so, why not choose the option that has a much larger installed base – and a demo that has a use case very similar to my final app.

Now what?

While I’ve not used node.js, I’m expecting the next few days to be a rapid iteration of development and testing.

…and I’ll be using git. :)

git init

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