Is Heroku Still Relevant?

Salesforce bought Heroku in 2010. What have they done since then?

To be fair, I started using Heroku in 2015, 5 years after Salesforce bought them. But the last time they updated their pricing was 2015, and the last new notable feature was 2015. What have they done in the last five years?

This article is mostly sourced from Hacker News comments I’ve left recently.

I actually don’t think Heroku has changed much at all since they were bought by Salesforce. That’s partially a good thing (Salesforce isn’t making them worse) but also a bad thing (because Salesforce doesn’t seem to be making them any better either). Pricing is the biggest thing: despite running on AWS with EC2 prices dropping pretty steadily, Heroku’s pricing seems to have held firm. Their offerings don’t seem to have changed much over the years either. You don’t hear about them in the news much, you don’t hear a lot of customer stories or companies talking about using Heroku… it just seems stagnant, which in the world of cloud computing is not great.

Pipelines was introduced 5 years ago, which also seems to be the last time they changed their prices. Their current model is based around the classic three-tier app (basically Ruby on Rails) no matter how much web applications have changed since then.

Heroku still doesn’t have any file/blob/data hosting options (like AWS S3 or DigitalOcean Spaces). You have to go to a third party for this.

Heroku doesn’t have any static site hosting options (like S3 or Netlify). You have to go to a third party.

But the biggest problem I have with Heroku’s model is how much I need to pay. I’ve been a Heroku customer for ~5 years and I’m still not exactly sure what a dyno is. And if I get it wrong, I can have auto-scaling… but only if I’m paying a minimum of $250 per month. Now that’s not a lot to big companies, but for bootstrappers like me that’s insane. And I only get 2.5GB of RAM for that $250/mo? And if I’m using microservices, every service costs me a minimum of $25/mo, $250/mo if I want auto-scaling on those services.

Like I said, Heroku is great and I use it in production and pay them money every month, but man if it’s not stuck in 2015. Luckily my application is also stuck in 2015, so I don’t have too many issues except for the ridiculous cost even as EC2 is dramatically cheaper now than it used to be (does Heroku support Graviton? I don’t think it does), but PaaS in general is “the old way of doing cloud” and Heroku is becoming less relevant every day.

Is Heroku Still Relevant?

Yes. If you have a three-tier application (Rails/Django/Node) that you just need to run in production and you don’t have a dedicated Ops team, Heroku is still your best bet. It’s pricey, but cheap compared to a dedicated Ops team. I just wish they’d stay on par with AWS pricing.

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