What is Heroku?

What is Heroku?
What is Heroku

Platform as a Service options help businesses create and manage high-performance applications. A reliable PaaS offering can help developers achieve streamlined API development and perform effortless database, IoT, communications, and process management.

Heroku is now regarded as one of the most reliable platforms as a service offering for businesses of all sizes. Take a look at this popular platform’s features, benefits, and limitations mentioned below.

The article will follow the structure below:

  • Heroku Overview
  • Heroku History
  • Popular apps using Heroku
  • Heroku Advantages & Disadvantages
  • Heroku Core Features
  • Heroku Competitive Landscape
  • Conclusion

Please continue reading to know more.

What is Heroku?

Heroku is a widely relied-upon platform as a service offering that enables developers to carry out hassle-free application deployment, scaling, and management. This platform offers support for a wide range of programming languages such as Java, Ruby, PHP, Node.js, Python, Scala, and Clojure. Heroku runs applications through virtual containers known as Dynos.

Heroku charges its users based on the number of virtual machines that are necessary for their applications. The Heroku platform and user-created applications use Amazon Web Services as the underlying infrastructure. Developers can achieve swift application development using it as it is quite convenient.

Heroku History

The first versions of Heroku were developed by Adam Wiggins, Orion Henry, and James Lindenbaum. It came into existence as a tool for supporting Rack-compatible projects, and its prototype was developed in six months. The Heroku project faced obstacles due to the absence of potential customers in the market, a problem that stemmed from most developers using their own environments and tools. The revamped version of Heroku was launched in 2009 following three months of development. Heroku gained a new CEO in Byron Sebastian in 2009. 

The company was then acquired by Salesforce in late 2010 by $212 million in a all cash deal. , when it became a fully owned Salesforce.com subsidiary. The principal designer of the Ruby language, Yukihiro Matsumoto, stepped into the role of Heroku’s Chief Architect, Ruby in 2011. Shortly after, support for Clojure and Node.js was added to Heroku. 2011 also saw the introduction of Heroku for Facebook. 

Heroku Popular Apps

Here are some popular applications using Heroku.

  • Citrix
  • Macys
  • Spaces
  • Cambly
  • LendUp

What is a Dyno?

A Dyno is a container on the Heroku platform utilized for running and scaling Heroku applications. They are fundamentally virtual Linux containers used for running code based on user commands. Applications can be scaled up to specific numbers of Dynos based on the requirements of developers. Heroku offers container management features to help users perform effortless scaling and dyno size, type and number management based on application requirements. 

Dynos are the fundamental elements powering up a Heroku application. Developers can deploy their applications to Dynos and manage these units to easily create and run scalable applications. They get freedom from having to perform infrastructure management tasks and can instead focus on the important aspects of creating and running applications. 

Heroku Advantages

  • Free to Start

Users can get started with the free tier of Heroku, which does come with some restrictions and fundamental functionality. It is a suitable plan for those who intend to create a basic cloud app. Developers can opt for this plan initially before committing to the platform. You can use it for testing the features of Heroku and figuring out if it’s a suitable fit for your application needs.

  • Easy to Use

As a leading platform as a service offering, Heroku is known for its ease-of-use. The free version of Heroku is best suited for small development projects. Developers can also opt for several different tier packages that are more suitable for large businesses’ complicated requirements. The intuitive Heroku platform dashboard helps users perform easy scaling, management, and application monitoring.

  • Developer-Centric

Heroku focuses on helping developers hone their skills to create feature-rich applications. The experience is favorable for developers as they access some useful tools to accelerate core development processes. They are free from having to perform various repetitive tasks and can concentrate on critical development actions. Heroku’s vast array of features can breathe life into any application development project.

  • Let developers concentrate on coding and not server management

Heroku takes away the burden of server management and gives developers access to an easy-to-use web UI. One-click deployments are also quite convenient for developers once an application is running. They can create new software releases conveniently in the form of release branches and quickly deploy branches across different environments. The ease of running Heroku makes it a convenient choice for application development.

  • Easy to scale

Heroku PaaS relies on a Dyno for running the code written by developers. Each dyno is fundamentally a container encapsulating resources such as memory and CPU and application code and related dependencies.

Heroku users can then choose to create any number of independent application copies once it has been prepared, a process known as horizontal scaling. Applications that receive an unprecedented influx of traffic can be handled through the one-click creation of hundreds of app instances.

Heroku’s auto-scaling feature helps it easily detect traffic spikes and create more Dynos accordingly.

  • Security

Heroku offers developers a secure way of developing applications due to its set of security features. This PaaS platform reduces developers’ requirement to push constant security patches, which can be a hassle, especially in more sophisticated web applications. Heroku ensures an optimal level of security for servers, application code and prevents any possible issues.

  • Powerful CLI

Heroku Command Line Interface or CLI is a feature that helps to develop and manage Heroku applications conveniently. The CLI is, in fact, one of the most reliable components of the Heroku PaaS.

  • Great Plugins & Third Party Support

The Heroku ecosystem consists of many cloud services that can prove to be quite essential for developers’ needs. These are quite useful for creating, managing, and operating applications.

Integrated Add-ons make it effortless for developers to perform service installations and manage configurations, billing, and data from CLI or Heroku Dashboard. Heroku also offers several add-ons that facilitate greater functionality by integrating platform API, processes, and logs. Some of the add-ons include Bucketeer, Redis To Go, Cloudcube, and more.

  • It’s part of Salesforce

The Heroku PaaS is a part of SalesForce, one of the most reliable software industry names. Since its acquisition by SalesForce, Heroku has also been developed considerably and achieved many more integrations. The companies are working together to provide high-quality solutions to meet the needs of businesses around the world.

Developers can build apps on Heroku and utilize Heroku Connect for data syncing between Heroku’s Postgres and deployment of SalesForce. The partnership of Heroku and SalesForce has created a PaaS product that enables swift and hassle-free development on high-quality applications.

  • Enterprise Support

Heroku Enterprise comes with several Pro Module options that help developers get the best out of their applications. The company lays a strong focus on assisting enterprises to simplify their application development processes. The 3 Modules offered for enterprises are App Assessment, Plan for Application Scaling, and Solution Proposal.

Heroku Limitations

  • Price

Heroku is considered to be an expensive option by many developers compared to other platforms. Some scaling issues can influence your decision to opt for it. Resource utilization is not optimal, and costs can rise with Heroku. Notably, Heroku is more expensive compared to AWS and several other key competitors.

  • Sleeping Apps

A single web dyno assigned to a Heroku application goes into sleep when it has not received traffic for an hour. The dyno wakes up automatically for processing when the application is reaccessed. Sleeping applications can be a potential issue for some businesses. However, applications that have multiple dynos do not go to sleep.

  • Limited Regions

Heroku is only available for the US and Europe regions, although it runs over the AWS platform. While it might be suitable for any business based in these two regions of having customer bases within them. But, if you are a business with an application with Asian country customers, there can be some lead time issues. This is one of the limitations that makes potential users outside Europe and the USA look at Heroku alternatives.

  • Less Flexibility vs. a IaaS

Heroku is a platform as a service offering, and the level of flexibility it offers is low compared to an IaaS service provider. Despite providing a vast array of features and add-ons, the platform is still limited in development types. IaaS is a model that offers peak flexibility for custom application development use cases, and a PaaS like Heroku is generally built atop an IaaS.

  • Limited Types of Instances

The Heroku PaaS is also limited in terms of the instance types it offers to users. Currently, developers can choose from just six different Dyno types, which all come with a specific memory, computing, CPU share limits, and dedicated server variations.

Several of these plans do not feature dedicated servers, and the memory and CPU limitations are worth looking over. Alternatively, services such as AWS offer a lot more variety in terms of instance types to users. Businesses or users with limited requirements can use Heroku without hassle, but growing scalability demands can be motivation enough to opt for an alternative.

  • Does not provide static IP addresses

A static IP address is a fundamental requirement for most businesses, and having one can prove to be quite an advantage. By default, Heroku does not offer static IP addresses within CRE (Common Runtime Environment).

Users have to opt for the expressive Heroku Private Spaces to get static IP addresses that are not optimal regarding load balancing or customization. Users have to rely on third-party static IP add-on providers to use this IP type with Heroku. The complexity of utilizing this feature can be a concern for developers and business owners alike and can influence them to go for other providers.

  • Does only charge in USD and no local currency support

Heroku only charges its customers in USD and not in other currencies, including Euro. This can be a minor inconvenience for business owners that prefer to pay in their currencies.

Heroku Pricing

Here is the overview about Heroku’s pricing structure:

  • Free Tier
  • Resource-Based Paid Plans

Each plan is designed to meet specific customers’ needs, and they are categorized in the following way.

Type of PlanIdeal forDescription
Free and HobbyMinimum Viable Products
Non-Commercial Applications
Solo Projects
Heroku has a Free plan and a Hobby plab, both starting at $0. These are the Starter plans, most well-suited for non-commercial app deployments.
ProductionSmall Business ApplicationsTheHeroku Production plan begins from a rate of $25 per month, but the rate can vary based on the requirements of the clients. 
AdvancedMission Critical ApplicationsThe Heroku Advanced Plan begins from $250 per month. It is most well-suited for businesses with more sophisticated development requirements. 
EnterpriseEnterprise Grade Applications The Heroku Enterprise package is a flexible plan that requires customers to pay depending on their needs. It is most suitable for companies with more sophisticated security and compliance requirements. 

As soon as you select your plan type, Heroku’s billing is a function of the following variables:

  • Size of the Dyno
  • Quantity of Dynos
  • Add-Ons
  • Number of Team Members
  • CI/CD options
  • Support Plan

The pricing model is not as complicated as a usage-based one, but also not so straightforward. The company’s website also has a cost estimator to help you get more accurate pricing estimates.

VariableCategoriesRemarksFree TierPaid Plans
Available Dyno Types are Dyno 1x, 2X, Performance M and L.YesPaid plans start at $25 per month.
Data ServicesHobby
Offers multiple database options like Postgres, Redis, and Apache Kafka.YesPricing starts at $15 per month for Redis.
A wide range of add ons is available. Examples are Caching, Search, and Image Processing.YesCheck Pricing Page
Team CollaborationCollaborators
The Collaborator Tier is ideal for solo developers. Under the Team Tier there is no extra charge up to 5 users. Team above 25 users are available only under the Enterprise Plan.Yes$10 per month
CI/CD optionsPipelines
Review Apps
CI Enterprise
Basic workflows and pipelines are included and free of charge. More sophisticated one like UX test runs only on the paid plans.Yes$10/mo per pipeline
There no support available under the free tier. Occasional troubleshooting support start at the Standard plan.NoStarts at $1,000 per month.

Heroku Main Features

Heroku divide its services into four main categories:

  • Heroku Platform
  • Heroku Data Services
  • Heroku Enterprise
  • Heroku Teams

Let’s explore each one of these services individually.

Heroku Platform

Heroku’s platform as a service offering reduces the need for infrastructure management for developers. It offers various features that are suitable for effortless app deployments.

Heroku also provides convenient application management and optimal scalability options. Developers using it can enjoy support for many programming languages such as PHP, Java, Python, Ruby, and more.

  • Heroku Runtime –  Heroku runs apps through its containers, also known as Dynos. It comes with a fully-managed runtime environment that supports a wide range of popularly used programming languages. 
  • Heroku DX – Heroku DX is an app-oriented feature that helps developers create and deploy applications. 
  • Heroku Elements – Heroku Elements is the company’s marketplace where users can access all its add-ons, buttons, and other resources. 
  • Heroku OpEX – Heroku OpEx lets users identify and solve application issues with precision. OpEx enables them to customize operation flows with precision. 
  • Security and Compliance – Heroku Security and Compliance offers several features, including SSL, authentication, and compliance for PCI, HIPAA, GDPR, SOC, and other standards.  

Heroku Data Services

It offers fully managed database services for Postgres, Redis, and Apache Kafka. The benefits of using Heroku vs. self-hosting includes hassle-free scaling, performance, and data backup.

  • Heroku Postgres – Heroku Postgres refers to a managed SQL database offering. Postgres databases can be accessed through a PostgreSQL driver across all Heroku-supported languages. 
  • Heroku Redis – Heroku Redis refers to a key-value data store that is offered as an add-on. It can be accessed from any Redus driver, encompassing all Heroku-supported frameworks and languages. 
  • Apache Kafka – Apache Kafka is a Java and Scala-based steam processing platform by Apache Software Foundation. It gives users a low latency platform for real-time use cases. 

 Heroku Enterprise

Heroku Enterprise is an enterprise-level offering that amalgamates the provider’s features and development functionalities and provides management and governance features for large businesses.

  •  Heroku Connect – Heroku Enterprise comes with Heroku Connect that can be availed through Connect SKU. It requires an Enterprise license, and users have to opt for it. 
  • Heroku Private Spaces – Private Spaces offers features for creating apps with high compliance requirements. These can be accessed through the Shield Private Space SKU.
  • Heroku Shield – Heroku Shield refers to several services that facilitate greater security for high compliance applications. 

 Heroku Teams

Heroku Teams is a collaboration set up for developers and their associates. It enables collaboration between Heroku users and can be used to modify permissions, handle administration, configure resources, and more.

It’s features enable:

  • Peer-to-peer collaboration
  • Integrated collaboration, billing and application administration
  • Secure and fast app development through collaboration and facilitating organizational administration. 

Are Heroku and AWS the same thing?

Both AWS and Heroku are popular cloud services considered by developers and businesses worldwide for mobile app development, management, and deployment requirements. Although there is a link between the two, they are not quite the same. Heroku is the PaaS offering developed on top of the AWS IaaS platform EC2.

 Differences between Heroku and AWS

  • Heroku is a PaaS (Platform and a Service) while AWS is an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
  • Heroku offers a managed service, whereas AWS makes several self-hosting options to users.  
  •  Heroku handles users’ infrastructure, while AWS gives them access to instances and services to be managed as part of its IaaS. 
  • Heroku is generally costlier than AWS EC2

Heroku Alternatives 

If you want to know some of the best alternatives to Heroku, then there is no need to go anywhere. It is because here we have enlisted top alternatives to Heroku for you:


Back4app is one of the most exciting and unique alternatives to Heroku, which is meant to help developers develop, deploy, and manage their applications in the best possible way. T

his BaaS solution can offer you a more straightforward and instant solution to create flawless applications in the best possible way. It is an open-source Backend as a Service solution that offers various tools, services, and integrations to make application development and deployment easier. 

AWS Elastic Beanstalk

AWS Elastic Beanstalk is an app deployment service used for applications based in PHP, Ruby, Java, and several other languages. It provides easy code upload, automatic deployment, load balancing, and more.


Engine Yard is a cloud app management offering that enables efficient cloud app management, monitoring, and provisioning. This platform provides an app cloud and continuous support for businesses to create robust apps.

Google App Engine

Google App Engine is a PaaS where developers can build high-performance and flexible applications on Google’s Cloud platform. It helps to build apps with the power of Google data centers.


Parse is one of the BaaS market’s leader and comes up with a broader range of services designed to improve your application development process in the best possible way. A massive community of developers supports this platform and works to enhance its features and services consistently.

Parse is offering a complete set of tools and integrations to bring ease, convenience, and effectiveness in web and mobile applications development processes.

Digital Ocean

Digital Ocean is a virtual private servers provider that offers VPS in the form of Droplets to users. Digital Ocean applications can be managed through web UI and doctl command lines. Users can customize droplet sizes, select app data centers and regions.

It now also offers a PaaS offering that helps developers to create, deploy, and scale apps. It’s a completely managed solution that handles the entire infrastructure.


Firebase is a robust platform that can help developers in web and mobile application development. Firebase is a highly scalable, flexible, and effective solution everyone can account for.

It is offering numerous benefits to the developers with its broader range of services and tools. It can let developers connect their web and mobile applications ready to use APIs and backend.

Please continue reading to know more about the best Heroku alternatives.


Heroku is a trusted PaaS offering acquired by Salesforce in 2012. Its advantages include a free tier, easy to use / developer-centric platform, and scalable hosting. The limitations include the sleeping apps, expensive price structure, and limited datacenter locations. 

Heroku’s key features include a comprehensive PaaS platform, database services, collaboration tools, and enterprise-grade solutions. The competitive landscape encompasses players like Back4app, AWS Beanstalk, and Digital Ocean App Platform.

What is Heroku?

Heroku is one of the most effective cloud-based PaaS (Platform as a Service) solutions. It’s part of Salesforce and was acquired in 2010 for $212 million.

What are Heroku pricing plans?

– Free tier
– Hobby for $7 per month per Dyno
– Standard 1x for $25 per month per Dyno
– Standard 2x for $50 per month per Dyno
– Performance M for $250 per month per Dyno
– Performance L for $500 per month per Dyno

What are the benefits of Heroku?

– Accelerate app development outsourcing the infrastructure
– Security and performance
– Large quantity of add-ons available

What are the main features of Heroku?

Heroku’s key features include a comprehensive PaaS platform, database services, collaboration tools, and enterprise-grade solutions.

What are the alternatives to Heroku?

– Back4app
– AWS Beanstalk
– Digital Ocean App Platform

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