Near-Realtime Analytics with MongoDB, Node.js & SmoothieCharts


In this blog post we’ll have a look at how easy it is to do some (near-)realtime analytics with your (big) data. I will use some well-known technologies like MongoDB and node.js and a lesser known JavaScript library called Smoothies Charts for realtime visualization.


Streaming Data from MongoDB

There is no official API to stream data out of MongoDB in an asynchronous manner. But it is possible to do so by trailing the oplog, MongoDB’s internal collection for replication (which is basically an implementation of an distributed log). Each document (and each other update or remove operation) will show up in that collection when using a replica set. So let’s set up a minimal replica set with 2 members:

$ mkdir -p /data/rs01
$ mkdir -p /data/rs02
$ mongod --port 27017 --dbpath /data/rs01 --replSet rs
$ mongod --port 27018 --dbpath /data/rs02 --replSet rs

After the instances are up, we have to init the replica set. We connect to one of the instances using the mongo shell and issue the following command:

$ mongo
> rs.initiate({
  _id: "rs",
  members: [
    {_id: 0, host: "localhost:27017"},
    {_id: 1, host: "localhost:27018"}

After some time, one of the instance becomes the primary node, the other the secondary.

Watching the Oplog

There are several node modules out there that allow you to easily watch the oplog. We’ll use …

npm install mongo-oplog-watcher

This module allows us to register a callback for each replication operation (insert, update, delete) quite easily:

var OplogWatcher = require('mongo-oplog-watcher');
var oplog = new OplogWatcher({
  host:"" ,ns: "test.orders"
oplog.on('insert', function(doc) {

We connect to the local replica set and are only interested in insert operations on the collection test.orders. Right now, we are just logging the received document.

Simple Analytics

For our demo, we use one of the simplest aggregation available: we will count things. To be more specific, we’ll count product orders grouped by category (books, electronics, shoes, etc.). Each document in test.orders has field cid that holds the product category:

  _id: ObjectId("..."),
  cid: "BK", // "BK" = books, "SH" = shoes, "EL" = electronics

The aggregation implementation is not that complicated. If we get an order for a yet unknown category, the counter is initialized with 1 and incremented otherwise:

var categoryCounter = {};
exports.addData = function( document ) {
	cat = document.cid;
	if ( cat ) {
		catCount = categoryCounter[cat];
		if (catCount) {
		} else {
			categoryCounter[cat] = 1;
exports.aggregate = function() {
	return categoryCounter;

This aggregation can easily extended with a timestamp to count all orders in a time frame, like orders per minute, orders per hour and so on. Do this as an exercise.

Client Notification

With each emitted document (that frequency maybe reduced in production with heavy write load), the dispatcher pushes the updates to all registered web clients which use web sockets to connect to the node server process. We are using the node module

npm install

The code on the server side looks basically like this:

// init web sockets
var clients = [];
var io = require('').listen(httpd);
io.sockets.on('connection', function(socket) {
io.sockets.on('disconnect', function(socket) {
	clients.pull( clients.indexOf(socket) );
// client notification
var async = require('async');
if ( clients.length > 0 ) {"Starting push to clients ...");
		function(socket, callback) {
			socket.emit(data_key, data);
		function(err) {;

The array of connected client get its notification asynchronously by use of the async module.

Visualization – Smoothies Charts

The visualization is done by a JavaScript library called Smoothies Charts which supports drawing reatime graphs in an easy manner. After opening a web socket to the node process, the graph is initialized. We are plotting one line for each product category:

	'BK', // books
	'EL', // electronics
	'SH'  // shoes
var STROKES = {'BK': 'rgba(0, 255, 0, 1)', 'EL': 'rgba(255, 0, 0, 1)', 'SH': 'rgba(0, 0, 255, 1)' };
var FILLS = {'BK': 'rgba(0, 255, 0, 0.2)', 'EL': 'rgba(255, 0, 0, 0.2)', 'SH': 'rgba(0, 0, 255, 0.2)'};
var orders = [];
var current_state = null;
function initChart() {
	var chart = new SmoothieChart();
	forEachCategory( function(category) {
		orders[category] = new TimeSeries();
		chart.addTimeSeries(orders[category], {
			strokeStyle : STROKES[category],
			fillStyle : FILLS[category],
			lineWidth : 2
	chart.streamTo(document.getElementById("orders-category"), 500);
	setInterval( autoUpdate, 2000 );
function initWebsocket() {
	var socket = io.connect('http://localhost:8080');
	socket.on('order_aggregates', function (data) {
		current_state = data;
function updateChart(data) {
	if (data) {
		forEachCategory( function(category) {
			orders[category].append(new Date().getTime(), data[category] );

This results in three monotonically increasing graphs that may look like this:

Realtime Visualization w/ Smoothis Charts


Of course, this example is simple. But it illustrates how to put up a (near) realtime view to your data. After streaming your data out of your NoSQL datastore, you may want to use more mature solutions like Storm or Splunk to process that data. Your system may not only visualize your data, it can also perform actions, something like increasing the amount of ad banners for the product category that does not sell very well etc.

The full source code for our demo application can be found at this github repo.

Dipl.-Math. Tobias Trelle is a Senior IT Consultant at codecentric AG in Solingen/Germany. He’s into IT business for nearly 20 years and is interested in software architecture and scalability. Tobias gives talks at conferences and meetups and is the author of the German book “MongoDB: Der praktische Einstieg”.


  • Rakesh

    24. June 2014 von Rakesh

    Very nice and concise article. Loved it!

  • pk

    Great solution. Thank you for sharing.

    Tried running this setup and had some errors…
    while trying to run node main.js

    throw err;
    Error: Cannot find module ‘./mongolistener.js’
    at Function.Module._resolveFilename (module.js:338:15)
    at Function.Module._load (module.js:280:25)
    at Module.require (module.js:364:17)
    at require (module.js:380:17)
    at Object. (/home/pk/Downloads/near-realtime-node-master/main.js:5:21)
    at Module._compile (module.js:456:26)
    at Object.Module._extensions..js (module.js:474:10)
    at Module.load (module.js:356:32)
    at Function.Module._load (module.js:312:12)
    at Function.Module.runMain (module.js:497:10)


  • Tobias Trelle

    @pk: I fixed that. It was an obsolete require in main.js. Thx for the hint.


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