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Vercel Launches Next.js 9.4 to Help Front-End Developers

The creator of the popular open source Next.js JavaScript development framework is making it easier to build and deploy applications that scale rapidly with Vercel.

Vercel announced an update of its Next.js-powered edge platform on July 21, providing users with a simplified approach to deploying applications across an optimized content delivery network (CDN).

Next.js is among the most popular open source web application frameworks and is based on the React JavaScript library for developing user interfaces. While Next.js can be used and deployed on any type of infrastructure, it is backed by commercial vendor Vercel, which is now advancing its own platform to optimize the delivery of Next.js applications. Vercel is led by CEO Guillermo Rauch, who is also the creator of Next.js.

The new Vercel update also expands on the concept of the JAMstack, which is an emerging DevOps stack for application development and deployment that includes JavaScript, APIs and markup (JAM) for application delivery. A common use case for JAMstack technologies has been the deployment of static websites. What the Vercel update powered by the Next.js 9.4 release now provides is the ability to automatically regenerate pages as data changes.

"The Vercel edge platform plays really well with the new Next.js dynamic features," Rauch told ITPro Today. "So people can build apps that are fully real time, and they can build apps with personalization information."

Next.js 9.4 Release Is the Foundation

The dynamic generation capabilities in Vercel are powered by new features that are part of the Next.js 9.4 release. One such capability is called incremental static regeneration, which enables pages to be built and distributed worldwide statically and regenerated when the data changes and is redistributed to the edge.

"This has the effect of massively increasing performance, drastically reducing latency, and you can basically never go offline no matter how big the traffic spike is," Rauch said. "You're basically globally distributed by default."

One of the key use cases for Vercel and Next.js is as part of the JAMstack approach, which has become popular in recent years for building static websites. The drawback of many JAMstack deployments is that it's often challenging to fully enable more dynamic sites in an optimized way, according to Rauch. Next.js is now able to give developers the benefits of JAMstack, including better performance with static websites, as well as the ability to enable dynamic changes, he added.

"The beauty is when your visitors are coming to your website, they're always receiving a statically rebuilt version of that page, meaning that there is never a performance cost that you're passing on to your customers," Rauch said.

Testing on Local Hosts Is Identical to Vercel Edge

Another challenge that Vercel is now taking on is the ability to let developers see exactly how a website or application will perform on its edge network before it's ever deployed.

Typically, developers will deploy to their own system, in a model known as local host, and run code inside of a web browser to see how it will behave. The challenge is that local host isn't the same as a cloud or edge network. With the new Vercel update, it's now possible for developers to deploy to local host and get the same experience as if it were deployed to the edge cloud.

"When you run on local host, you're getting the exact same output that you get when you deploy to a global infrastructure made up of thousands of servers," Rauch said. "That kind of predictability and symmetry between local dev experience and global cloud is powerful."

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