Meteor vs Rails: What are the differences?
Meteor and Rails belong to "Frameworks (Full Stack)" category of the tech stack.
"Real-time", "Full stack, one language" and "Best app dev platform available today" are the key factors why developers consider Meteor; whereas "Rapid development", "Great gems" and "Great community" are the primary reasons why Rails is favored.
Meteor and Rails are both open source tools. Rails with 43.6K GitHub stars and 17.5K forks on GitHub appears to be more popular than Meteor with 41.2K GitHub stars and 5.03K GitHub forks.
Airbnb, Twitter, and Instacart are some of the popular companies that use Rails, whereas Meteor is used by Accenture, Rocket.Chat, and FashionUnited. Rails has a broader approval, being mentioned in 2321 company stacks & 796 developers stacks; compared to Meteor, which is listed in 195 company stacks and 156 developer stacks.
What is Meteor?
What is Rails?
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By mid-2015, around the time of the Series E, the Digital department at WeWork had grown to more than 40 people to support the company’s growing product needs.
By then, they’d migrated the main website off of WordPress to Ruby on Rails, and a combination React, Angular, and jQuery, though there were efforts to move entirely to React for the front-end.
The backend was structured around a microservices architecture built partially in Node.js, along with a combination of Ruby, Python, Bash, and Go. Swift/Objective-C and Java powered the mobile apps.
These technologies power the listings on the website, as well as various internal tools, like community manager dashboards as well as RFID hardware for access management.
When starting a new company and building a new product w/ limited engineering we chose to optimize for expertise and rapid development, landing on Rails API, w/ AngularJS on the front.
The reality is that we're building a CRUD app, so we considered going w/ vanilla Rails MVC to optimize velocity early on (it may not be sexy, but it gets the job done). Instead, we opted to split the codebase to allow for a richer front-end experience, focus on skill specificity when hiring, and give us the flexibility to be consumed by multiple clients in the future.
We also considered .NET core or Node.js for the API layer, and React on the front-end, but our experiences dealing with mature Node APIs and the rapid-fire changes that comes with state management in React-land put us off, given our level of experience with those tools.
We're using GitHub and Trello to track issues and projects, and a plethora of other tools to help the operational team, like Zapier, MailChimp, Google Drive with some basic Vue.js & HTML5 apps for smaller internal-facing web projects.
StackShare Feed is built entirely with React, Glamorous, and Apollo. One of our objectives with the public launch of the Feed was to enable a Server-side rendered (SSR) experience for our organic search traffic. When you visit the StackShare Feed, and you aren't logged in, you are delivered the Trending feed experience. We use an in-house Node.js rendering microservice to generate this HTML. This microservice needs to run and serve requests independent of our Rails web app. Up until recently, we had a mono-repo with our Rails and React code living happily together and all served from the same web process. In order to deploy our SSR app into a Heroku environment, we needed to split out our front-end application into a separate repo in GitHub. The driving factor in this decision was mostly due to limitations imposed by Heroku specifically with how processes can't communicate with each other. A new SSR app was created in Heroku and linked directly to the frontend repo so it stays in-sync with changes.
Related to this, we need a way to "deploy" our frontend changes to various server environments without building & releasing the entire Ruby application. We built a hybrid Amazon S3 Amazon CloudFront solution to host our Webpack bundles. A new CircleCI script builds the bundles and uploads them to S3. The final step in our rollout is to update some keys in Redis so our Rails app knows which bundles to serve. The result of these efforts were significant. Our frontend team now moves independently of our backend team, our build & release process takes only a few minutes, we are now using an edge CDN to serve JS assets, and we have pre-rendered React pages!
#StackDecisionsLaunch #SSR #Microservices #FrontEndRepoSplit
Back in 2014, I was given an opportunity to re-architect SmartZip Analytics platform, and flagship product: SmartTargeting. This is a SaaS software helping real estate professionals keeping up with their prospects and leads in a given neighborhood/territory, finding out (thanks to predictive analytics) who's the most likely to list/sell their home, and running cross-channel marketing automation against them: direct mail, online ads, email... The company also does provide Data APIs to Enterprise customers.
I had inherited years and years of technical debt and I knew things had to change radically. The first enabler to this was to make use of the cloud and go with AWS, so we would stop re-inventing the wheel, and build around managed/scalable services.
For the SaaS product, we kept on working with Rails as this was what my team had the most knowledge in. We've however broken up the monolith and decoupled the front-end application from the backend thanks to the use of Rails API so we'd get independently scalable micro-services from now on.
Our various applications could now be deployed using AWS Elastic Beanstalk so we wouldn't waste any more efforts writing time-consuming Capistrano deployment scripts for instance. Combined with Docker so our application would run within its own container, independently from the underlying host configuration.
Storage-wise, we went with Amazon S3 and ditched any pre-existing local or network storage people used to deal with in our legacy systems. On the database side: Amazon RDS / MySQL initially. Ultimately migrated to Amazon RDS for Aurora / MySQL when it got released. Once again, here you need a managed service your cloud provider handles for you.
Future improvements / technology decisions included:
Caching: Amazon ElastiCache / Memcached CDN: Amazon CloudFront Systems Integration: Segment / Zapier Data-warehousing: Amazon Redshift BI: Amazon Quicksight / Superset Search: Elasticsearch / Amazon Elasticsearch Service / Algolia Monitoring: New Relic
As our usage grows, patterns changed, and/or our business needs evolved, my role as Engineering Manager then Director of Engineering was also to ensure my team kept on learning and innovating, while delivering on business value.
One of these innovations was to get ourselves into Serverless : Adopting AWS Lambda was a big step forward. At the time, only available for Node.js (Not Ruby ) but a great way to handle cost efficiency, unpredictable traffic, sudden bursts of traffic... Ultimately you want the whole chain of services involved in a call to be serverless, and that's when we've started leveraging Amazon DynamoDB on these projects so they'd be fully scalable.
For many(if not all) small and medium size business time and cost matter a lot.
That's why languages, frameworks, tools, and services that are easy to use and provide 0 to productive in less time, it's best.
Maybe Node.js frameworks might provide better features compared to Rails but in terms of MVPs, for us Rails is the leading alternative.
Amazon EC2 might be cheaper and more customizable than Heroku but in the initial terms of a project, you need to complete configurationos and deploy early.
Advanced configurations can be done down the road, when the project is running and making money, not before.
Finally, comunication and keeping a good history of conversations, decisions, and discussions is important so we use a mix of Slack and Twist
Mixmax was originally built using Meteor as a single monolithic app. As more users began to onboard, we started noticing scaling issues, and so we broke out our first microservice: our Compose service, for writing emails and Sequences, was born as a Node.js service. Soon after that, we broke out all recipient searching and storage functionality to another Node.js microservice, our Contacts service. This practice of breaking out microservices in order to help our system more appropriately scale, by being more explicit about each microservice’s responsibilities, continued as we broke out numerous more microservices.
As Mixmax began to scale super quickly, with more and more customers joining the platform, we started to see that the Meteor app was still having a lot of trouble scaling due to how it tried to provide its reactivity layer. To be honest, this led to a brutal summer of playing Galaxy container whack-a-mole as containers would saturate their CPU and become unresponsive. I’ll never forget hacking away at building a new microservice to relieve the load on the system so that we’d stop getting paged every 30-40 minutes. Luckily, we’ve never had to do that again! After stabilizing the system, we had to build out two more microservices to provide the necessary reactivity and authentication layers as we rebuilt our Meteor app from the ground up in Node.js. This also had the added benefit of being able to deploy the entire application in the same AWS VPCs. Thankfully, AWS had also released their ALB product so that we didn’t have to build and maintain our own websocket layer in Amazon EC2. All of our microservices, except for one special Go one, are now in Node with an nginx frontend on each instance, all behind AWS Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) or ALBs running in AWS Elastic Beanstalk.
I discovered Meteor thanks to my daughter who used it for a project at MIT. I was amazed at how much she had built in such a short time. I had also been trying to figure out how to build a browser-based crypto app so I jumped into Meteor and had an MVP for cloak.ly in a few short months starting from nothing. Learning Meteor really alters what you perceive as easy and difficult in full-stack development. It has an amazing ability to simplify your thinking and your code. Community support in terms of packages is outstanding as well which saves tremendous time. The quality of the software is outstanding with very few regressions cropping up during their frequent releases.
Being at the bleeding edge of the js community does have its downsides however. While early Meteor (with Blaze/handlebars templates) was exceedingly simple, Meteor have had to introduce support for both angular and react. In combination with the move to ECMAscript this has resulted in a lot of work for developers to just keep up with the evolution of the platform. Someone who was an expert 6 months ago might quickly find themselves being a newb again. If you're someone who doesn't like change you may want to stick to jQuery.
Living in the bay area I have the luxury of being able to attend Meteor events frequently. Having met many members of the MDG team, I have tremendous confidence in the future of the platform. This is a very solid group with a rare combination of broad vision and excellent execution.
Meteor is my favorite framework. It makes everything fun. Syncing data across devices is really easy and you don't have to mess around with sockets at all. You can insert data into the database on the client. There's tons of security options. There's over 3000 packages on the packaging system. Instant iOS and Android apps. Amazing, reactive routing. Free hosting. Easy deployment with Meteor Up. What's not to like?
Meteor is so powerful and flexible. I love it. In the near future, it will be the top-used framework.
We have gone "all in" on Meteor and I recommend you do to.
The first live version of Leanstack was actually a WordPress site. There wasn’t a whole lot going on at first. We had static pages with static content that needed to be updated manually. Then came the concept of user-generated content and we made the switch to a full on Rails app in November of last year. Nick had a lot of experience with Rails so that made the decision pretty easy. But I had also played around with Rails previously and was comfortable working with it. I also knew I’d need to hire engineers with a lot more experience building web apps than I do, so I wanted to go with a language and framework other people would have experience with. Also, the sheer number of gems and tools available for Rails is pretty amazing (shout to RubyToolbox ).
I don’t see us ever having to move away from Rails really, but I could be wrong. Leanstack was built in Rails 3. For StackShare we decided to upgrade to Rails 4. Biggest issue with that has been caching. DHH decided to remove the standard page and action caching in favor of key-based caching (source)[http://edgeguides.rubyonrails.org/caching_with_rails.html#page-caching]. Probably a good thing from a framework-perspective. But pretty shitty to have to learn about that after testing out your new app and realizing nothing is cached anymore :( We’ll need to spend some more time implementing "Russian Doll Caching", but for now we’ve got a random mixture of fragment and action caching (usually one or the other) based on which pages are most popular.
We use Rails for webpages and projects, not for backend services. Actually if you click through our website, you won't notice it but you're clicking though, I think, seven or eight different Rails projects. We tie those all together with a front-end library that we wrote, which basically makes sure that you have a consistent experience over all these different Rails apps.
It's a gem, we call it Karmeleon. It's not a gem that we released. It's an internal gem. Basically what it does is it makes sure that we have a consistent layout across multiple Rails apps. Then we can share stuff like a menu bar or footer or that kind of stuff.
So if we start a new front end project it's always a Rails application. We pull in the Karmeleon gem with all our styling stuff and then basically the application is almost ready to be deployed. That would be an empty page, but you would still have top bar, footer, you have some custom components that you can immediately use. So it kind of bootstraps our entire project to be a front end project.
Web has always been in Rails from the beginning, so we used Redis for caching our items, which we had, from the beginning. Rails is kind of what we were comfortable with, and we knew we wanted the front end to be really, really snappy, so we de-normalized all the item attributes into Redis, and that's how it got served out.
Rails 5 (beta 3) provided a nice structure for rendering responses, linking to front-end assets (compiled previously via Webpack), handling sessions w/ tailor made login links via an email button/token, background jobs, and creating an admin behind basic auth to allow managing of users and purchases.
For this project rails was ideal due to new features introduced in Rails 5 that allowed us to build a lightweight "API only" project. Developer familiarity and the ability to rapidly iterate, as well as providing an accessible testing framework were additional factors.
Without Meteor cloak.ly could not have been built as quickly by such a small team. Meteor was instrumental to getting an MVP up quickly and dealing with the complexities of browser-based encryption.
Built on Node.js, Meteor's real time reactivity and its wide package ecosystem allows us to quickly prototype and build apps in a lean way