What is Deno πŸ¦• made of?

#deno
#javascript

Time to read: 4 minutes

You have probably heard of the latest and greatest thing to be born in the javascript universe. Yes it's Deno πŸ¦• Apart from the cute logo and a scrambled version of its big brother NODE, it is something that is being loved by the community and has attracted lot of attention which it deserves. The official Deno website already explains the concept in a nice an simple way which I would like to quote

Deno is a simple, modern and secure runtime for JavaScript and TypeScript that uses V8 and is built in Rust.

While many of the community folks have share some interesting articles and examples on getting started with Deno, I would like to share about the 'how things work inside of Deno' in simple terms. Just like understanding the basics of how JavaScript work under the hood or how Node works, it helps us grasp the concepts better, so knowing about the basic internal working concepts of Deno can help us understand it better and develop better programs with it. I would like to elaborate the concepts using some Q & As.

What are the basic building blocks of Deno?

Deno is mainly made up of

  • V8 Engine (A javascript engine engineered by Google that powers the chrome browser. Node uses the same javascript engine as well). The role of the javascript engine in simple terms is to accept javascript files which it understands and interprets and converts to machine code that a computer understands. You can read more about V8 here
  • Typescript (A superset of javascript developed by the good folks at Microsoft). Deno has a built-in TypeScript compiler which compiles typescript files to javascript before feeding it to the javascript engine. So Deno provides first-class support for typescript without the need of adding any package which is awesome. You can checkout more about typescript here.
  • RUST (A language pioneered by Mozilla which is blazing fast and a very safe and memory efficient language). The core of Deno is written in Rust. As a comparision, the core of Node Js is writen in C and C++. The developers opted for rust because of its safety and memory efficiency. It is also the most loved language since 2016! Check out more about Rust here
  • Tokio (An asynchronous runtime for the Rust language). As you know, javascript is a single-threaded application, which means it can only run one operation at a time, any kind of asynchronous operation that is written in the code such setTimeout or accessing the file system is managed by Tokio. NodeJs similarly has something called LIBUV which handles all asynchronous tasks using an event loop. In browsers for example, any kind of asynchronous operations are handled by the web workers that are a part of the Web APIs provided by the browser. Checkout more on Tokio here.
  • RustyV8 - Think of this as a bridge that helps the V8 engine communicate with the Rust code. In NodeJs, there is similarly something called node-bindings that communicates between the v8 engine and LIBUV. Checkout more about rusy v8 here

You can think of javascript/typescript as the frontend(unpriviledged side) of Deno and Rust being the backend(priviledged side). The Deno core API provides bindings to interact and communicate between the javascript and Rust world. JavaScript alone can't access file system or set a timer for example. Whenever you write any code that does any such task in Deno, then javascript/typescript talks to Rust via the Deno core API to accomplish it.

What happens when we write some simple javascript code in Deno?

function printToConsole() {
  console.log(
    'This is my first Deno program, and I am pretty excited! Hello πŸ¦•'
  );
}
printToConsole(); // This is my first Deno program, and I am pretty excited! Hello πŸ¦•

Since it is simple javascript code, the code is fed to the V8 engine and prints the message to the console. Yeah nothing fancy, it's just like writing the same code in the browser console.

What happens when we write some typescript code in Deno?

function printNameToConsole(name: string) {
  console.log(`Welcome ${name} to Deno World πŸ¦•`);
}
printToConsole('Allen'); // Welcome Allen to Deno World πŸ¦•

This time Deno hands it over to the typescript compiler to convert the typescript code into javascript code and then it it transferred to the V8 engine. Deno uses V8 snapshots to speed up the typescript compilation process.

What happens when we write some Async code in Deno?

function printNameToConsole(name: string) {
  console.log(`Welcome ${name} to Deno World πŸ¦•`);
}
printToConsole('Rob');
setTimeout(() => {
  printToConsole('John');
}, 1000);
printToConsole('Allen');

//Welcome Rob to Deno World πŸ¦•
//Welcome Allen to Deno World πŸ¦•
//Welcome John to Deno World πŸ¦•

When V8 sees the first printNameToConsole() statement, it prints the name, then it sees setTimeout which it identifies as a something which is outside of the javascript world. So it talks to Tokio via the rusty_v8 channel. It then goes to the next line and prints the third function to the console. Tokio in the meanwhile spins up something known as a thread pool to set a timer and executes the function in the background. Once the delay is completed, it communicates back the message to the V8 engine via the rusty_v8 channel which then prints the message to the console.

Deno also provides a neat API that can be called using Deno.metrics(). It provides stats from the Rust side of Deno about the information of the operations that took place. Something like this:

console.table(Deno.metrics())

(index)Values
opsDispatched3
opsDispatchedSync2
opsDispatchedAsync1
opsDispatchedAsyncUnref0
opsCompleted3
opsCompletedSync2
opsCompletedAsync1
opsCompletedAsyncUnref0
bytesSentControl73
bytesSentData0
bytesReceived375

This is a very simplified version of the data communication happens in Deno. There are lots of other things to talk about Deno regarding its great features which I can probably share in another post with some more real-life examples.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Have a great one!

Found a typo or an issue? Feel free toeditthis post by submitting a PR