Nodeday 2014: Moving A Large Workforce To Node
NodeDay 2014: Moving a large workforce to Node
Akbar S. Ahmed | Apr 10, 2014

How PayPal migrated to Node.js

Shifting a large organization like PayPal to Node.js doesn’t happen overnight. Erik shares the challenges involved and the solutions that arose from it.


Recognize what are Node’s strengths and verify that its the right tool for the job at hand. Choosing Node may be a technical or business need. Node is a philosopy.

Be prepared for critics…

  • they will parrot questions: Type safety…something, something. Ask, why is type checking important for you?
  • they will represent opinions they have read as their own
  • they will use outdated information
  • they will use other people’s data out of context
  • they will use micro benchmarks as if they mattered
  • they will assume you have ulterior motives
  • they will underestimate you. real engineers use (insert x).
  • they will assume that b/c they have not heard of something that it doesn’t exist
  • and, they will do all of this without actually evaluating the technology. Have you used it? What did you develop?

Erik had a lot more to add to each bullet point above.

The solution? Focus on influencers.

Can you prove that customers benefit? This is key. Show the benefit to customers and you’ll have the support necessary to move foward.

Avoid things that are hard initially. Get some easy wins then build from that base.

Use tight constraints. Focus on what really needs to be solved.

Only fix what’s actually broken! For PayPal it was velocity and productivity.

People - Grow/train and support our peers. Product - Speed up the product lifecycle. Technology - create the best experiences.

They use Jenkins for CI so there was no need to reinvent this wheel just for Node. Also, PayPal has existing system monitoring, logging, etc. Again, they reused what already exists rather than trying to reinvent every wheel.

Erik made an important point that they were smart not to customize PayPal’s infrastructure for Node alone. He stated that Node was one of many technologies in PayPal’s stack, and they viewed the continuity of infrastructure as separate from the introduction of a new technology (i.e. Node). Not sure if I paraphrased this accurately…so watch the video when it’s released.

A nice side effect of JavaScript is that people can see each other’s code with names attached. In other words, JavaScript is not compiled, so people are more likely to write high quality code when they know other engineers can easily read the source.

Adhere to Node’s approach: keep it modular! Make it easy to replace my module with someone else’s better written code/module.

The only thing that should differentiate public and private modules is access rights. Use the same quality for all code.

Learn semver.

Understand the implications of your choices when using ~ etc. in package.js.

Code in patterns and don’t experiment in production code. Use side project / personal project to experiment, but keep production code clean and standards compliant.

Maintain conventions. Be consistent.


Q: I’m having trouble finding sources of truth on Node.

A: Erik said it’s a good idea to talk with people. Connect on Twitter, via email, in person or whatever. But talk to leaders in the community to learn about best practices.

Q: What tools can help them get to production level?

A: PayPal already had a pipeline to get code to production. For Node they use pm2, Jenkins, nginx. Also, don’t use npm install during deploy…you need to package the app and all dependencies. They use tap for testing. PayPal has proprietary system monitoring.

Q: What are the advantage of Kraken?

A: There is no need to make everyone learn idiosyncrasies of Express. Prevents misconfiguration.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Contact Information


We specialize in helping professional developers, like you, expand your skill set. Our courses are focused on enabling you to learn everything necessary to use a new technology in a live, production application.


All courses are made with love in
Palo Alto, CA.

Subscribe to our newsletter