Heroku vs Docker – Which is better?

Containerization is growing extremely popular among app developers nowadays.

A container that encapsulates the app code and its dependencies are abstracted away from the host OS and get minimal access to the resources, meaning they can be run on various types of infrastructures without refactoring it for each environment.

This innate flexibility and higher efficiency of containers make them extremely useful in packaging microservices in modern apps. As an app developer, if you are looking for a container-based app development platform, you must have come across Heroku and Docker.

They are two of the most popular services in use today. Continue reading as we compare the features and advantages of both, helping you decide if either of them is a fit for your requirements.

What Heroku? 

Heroku is one of the most popular solutions to build, deploy, monitor, and scale web apps and APIs through a really simple and intuitive developer experience.

It is one of the oldest cloud computing platforms based on the container model, allowing developers a fully managed environment to develop and run dynamic applications on the cloud.

Heroku containers are called dynos and they contain a copy of the app code along with its dependencies. These dynos are designed to execute the code based on a user-specified command, and your app can scale to any number of dynos based on the resources requested by the incoming traffic.

Essentially, Heroku provides you with a simple way to manage the number, size, and type of dynos required by your app at any given point.

Heroku Core Features 

  • Heroku Developer Experience (DX)

With Heroku DX, developers can focus on creating and delivering apps quickly and consistently, without having to worry about provisioning resources or managing infrastructure. You can directly deploy code from Git, GitHub, or CI repositories.

  • Data Services and Ecosystem

With Heroku Elements, you get access to various add-ons (i.e., third-party cloud services) and buildpacks that allow you to increase the functionality of the application and customize the app stack. You can easily add features like logging, data monitoring, notifications, storage, etc.

  • Heroku Operational Experience (OpEx)

OpEx helps testers and developers through troubleshooting common issues and addressing any negative trends in their app health.

You get access to a set of tools that alert you whenever something goes wrong, and automatically scale web dynos when the response times cross a specific threshold.

Heroku Advantages 

  • Easy to build and deploy

One of the most significant advantages of using Heroku is the ease of developing and deploying applications.

Since the platform manages everything from provisioning resources to managing the underlying infrastructure, developers can extract the full benefits of the features and functionality and produce their best work consistently.

  • App-centric approach

Developers can deploy their code on the platform written in any popular programming language, including Node.js, Ruby, PHP, Java, Python, Clojure, Scala, Go, etc.

The build system and app stacks are constantly monitored and patched, keeping your app ready for execution and up to date. With Heroku, companies can focus on improving the app, without having to worry about the hassles of maintaining hardware or managing servers. 

  • Increased productivity

Heroku is versatile enough to support all stages of production environments, i.e., develop, run, manage, and scale.

You get trusted database options with Postgres and performance Dynos for high-traffic apps.

Regular security audits and patches help keep the data on Heroku servers safe and maintain compliance under HIPAA, ISO, SOC, etc.

What is Docker? 

Docker is an enterprise-level app development platform based on the container model that allows developers to build, test, manage, and scale apps in isolated containers.

Each container encapsulates a copy of the code, libraries, and configuration files, and runs independently from each other. 

While Docker and Heroku follow similar concepts, they are vastly different.

While Heroku is a commercial service provider as seen above, Docker is an open-source software project that allows you to run your app practically anywhere. DevOps frequently use containerization tools like Docker to deploy apps more predictably and reliably.

Also, Docker offers subscriptions that start at $5/month.

Docker Core Features 

  • Portability

Docker containers are innately self-contained, packing all the software dependencies like runtimes and libraries. Hence they are highly portable, eliminating the configuration variance problems. Your code will run the same way on the cloud as it did on your production machine.

  • Software-defined networking

By separating the network control plane from the forwarding plane, Docker allows operators to design systems with complex network topologies and define isolated networks to enhance network monitoring and performance.

  • Swarm

Essentially a clustering and scheduling tool, Swarm uses a Docker API on the front-end that helps developers control a cluster of Docker hosts as a single virtual host.

It is a self-organizing group of engines used to enable pluggable backends. Swarm can also schedule an instance of the container in the list of services specified inside a cluster.

Docker Advantages 

  • Flexibility

Docker containers inherently make the apps more flexible with the help of orchestrators, which are powerful tools for managing larger deployments and complex systems.

Since it is open-source, developers also do not need to worry about vendor lock-ins if they decide to manage things on their own in the future.

  • Better for microservices

Developers who are working on apps that offer features through microservices also prefer using Docker.

Unlike monoliths that become difficult to manage when they grow, independent containers are easier to deploy and hence more efficient for deploying microservices.

  • Faster scaling

Docker Containers make scaling extremely easy as you do not have to worry about improving the hardware or buying more physical servers.

Developers can simply cram more workloads into the same hardware through virtualization, effectively reducing the cost of scaling when the userbase increases.


Docker is primarily preferred by developers because it is open-source, user friendly, and facilitates high-velocity innovation.

On the other hand, Heroku is fully managed and therefore easier to use in general, allowing developers to run and scale any type of app effortlessly.

If you are building an app with several microservices for different features, consider talking to one of the leading app hosting companies for detailed insight into how Heroku or Docker will suit your requirements.

Hopefully this article will help you to better understand the differences and similarities between Heroku and Dokker. You may also enjoy reading the article Top 10 CaaS Providers.


What is Heroku?

Heroku is a PaaS platform from Salesforce. It is developer-centric, provides managed hosting and fantastic scalability. Featured customers include HotelEngine, Cambly, and Carbon Five.

What is Docker?

It is a containerization platform. It is open-source, allows package apps into containers, and is developer-centric. Featured customers are Adobe, Target, and Netflix.

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