Making Sense of the MEAN / MERN Stack
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Making Sense of the MEAN / MERN Stack

I remember the first time I developed a website during the dot-com boom in the late 1990s. I was a fourth grader at Williams Elementary School, going to school among many fellow classmates who had parents in the technology industry. Sensing that their students might one day be part of this wave, our teachers put together a web development class where we created HTML websites and wrote articles about our hobbies in an early incarnation of Microsoft FrontPage. Everything was remarkably simple.

Life – and websites – have changed tremendously since those simple times. Websites have moved on from rotating GIFs and tables, replaced with mobile-responsive, widget-based features that load quickly. Thankfully, few people browse the web in fear of hitting a page with background music, a practice since shunned. Web development professionals and consumers have inspired many of the changes, especially as the development of websites have accelerated. What used to be a combination of HTML, CSS, and custom JavaScript still works, but for larger organizations, adopting a web stack has proven to be more fruitful.

Introducing the MEAN/MERN Stack

The expectation for a good website is higher than ever, especially as consumers aim to find information quickly. Additionally, new best practices also place pressure on web developers to adopt DevOps methodologies, including the continuous rollout of enhancements, ensuring high availability, and maintaining scalability. In response, web developers have adopted frameworks to make their work easier, evolving upon already-existing frameworks including JavaScript.

Thankfully, JavaScript has evolved into two web stacks, MEAN and MERN. These frameworks are becoming increasingly popular among the industry and our customers and stand for:

  • MEAN – MongoDB, Express, Angular, Node.js
  • MERN – MongoDB, Express, React, Node.js

Both of these stacks consist of open source components that provide an end-to-end framework for developing comprehensive web applications that connect browsers to databases. In both stacks, the common theme is JavaScript, allowing for one type of code and avoiding confusion or syntax errors.

One of the other advantages of the MEAN and MERN Stack is its flexibility. With clear overlap among all the members of the stack, developers have the power to choose which framework does what, but must also know the strengths and weaknesses of each framework. Understanding the difference between Express and Angular is one such example, as both can route to pages, run application code, and implement business logic. However, the right developer also knows that Express should be preferred for back-end work since the framework is closer to the database, more secure for data and code, and more compatible with powerful servers.

As with most technology best practices, we leave the exercise of choosing the right stack to developers and the communities they associate.

Why are These Stacks Important?

A standard stack accelerates time to market and fosters familiarity and standards for developers. Adopting the stack also addresses critical but repetitive development tasks that redirects efforts towards building and innovating upon a breakthrough application. Particularly as organizations adopt more DevOps frameworks, a standardized stack also means more time for deployment and market testing.

These stacks are also important because of the breaking down of application silos through REST APIs. As applications become less of an isolated entity, it can now interact through public APIs to grant developers the power to allow customers to perform actions including connecting through Facebook, registering with Twitter, or pinning a location on a map.

How about you and your organization? Where do you see these types of languages heading over the next few years and what is the emphasis of development stacks in your day-to-day work? Let us in the comments section below.

Work With Us

Do you have a dynamic web application that you are looking to take to the next level? See how the MERN / MEAN and our consultative approach can help by emailing us at sales@perficient.com.

Learn more about our IBM practice here.

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