Heroku: An Awesome PaaS Platform
The days that companies measured productivity by the amount of time worked and number of lines of code written are long gone. In the fourth industrial revolution, businesses do not have the luxury of spending years on developing products. The audience and market are moving so fast that companies have to continuously innovate and deliver new products and services to stay in business.
Cloud services providers who offer various “as a Service” products also have to continuously evolve. We are in a cloud native microservices and serverless era. One such “as a Service” product is Heroku. Heroku is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) founded in 2007 and acquired by Salesforce in 2010. There are dozens of alternatives the various “as a Service” offerings that are available. Some of them need expertise while others leverage existing talents. We will keep our focus on Heroku for this article. Heroku is one such product where a developer who knows how to commit a code can deploy a scalable application with a single commit.
Many of us might have heard about two pizza teams and how you should keep the number of team members responsible for a service to a minimum. With Heroku, you can start with just a couple of engineers and add more as needed. A lot of focus over the past few years has been on building a minimum viable product (MVP) made popular by the lean movement. The time period we are in is even more faster. Why just build an MVP when you can build a great application with a team focused on business need and spending less time on platform, infrastructure, and even DevOps?
Should You Orchestrate Containers?
Businesses no longer have to buy servers and install operating systems. If you are still doing that, it is like living in the era of CRT monitors and manual typewriters. Provisioning a server with the OS and all the libraries is just a click and a few seconds away. In a similar way, running scalable applications should not mean every business needs to learn how to deploy, orchestrate and manage the containers in every single cloud service provider.
Heroku DevOps Support
With Heroku, a single commit by ‘git push heroku master‘ can deploy your Java, Ruby, Python, Go, Node and many other languages into scalable cloud infrastructure.
Heroku provides various DevOps support with its toolsets. Heroku has its own tools such as the ones listed below:
One of the core contributions of Heroku to the community is the buildpacks. Buildpacks make it easy to deploy applications. The auto-detection, build, and deployment of applications means you could literally deploy your code to a staging environment even without having all the SDKs installed locally. The point here is to emphasize the simplicity of buildpacks and not a recommendation that you develop without the right tools. If you have to make a small change to your code, you could even edit and commit directly from your Github and trigger a deployment via pipelines.
Heroku teamed up with Pivotal in 2018 to come up with Cloud Native buildpacks. More on this can be found at https://buildpacks.io/.
Productivity means developers focus on what is more important to satisfy the business need. If a business does not adopt the best practices, it only means that they get less benefit and more frustration out of their team.
Heroku is available in various regions and via pipeline you could easily deploy the app to multiple regions.
Heroku For Compliance
The businesses that require HIPAA compliance, PCI compliance and other compliances can make use of Heroku Enterprises. Heroku provides private spaces that are only accessible via VPN and within VPC. Also Heroku provides PrivateLink to AWS resources. Heroku itself runs on AWS servers and is available in many AWS regions. Heroku may or may not continue to run on top of AWS. But the commitment from Heroku to support VPC/VPN connections to other cloud providers’ resources and on premise seems strong.
Since Heroku is a product owned by Salesforce, their obvious focus is on providing integration to Salesforce (CRM) platform and associated products. Salesforce provides Heroku Connect to synchronize data between Salesforce and Postgres database in an enterprise deployment.
Microservices in Heroku
You can run applications in microservices architecture within Heroku Private Spaces or in the much more affordable public spaces. It all depends on the type of the applications that you are running and the compliance need. If you are building applications in Java and are interested in Spring Boot, Spring Cloud Services you could look into JHipster. JHipster provides various tools to build and deploy applications to various cloud providers including Heroku. Spring Cloud relies a lot on the Netflix OSS tools. Netflix may discontinue a project or put it on maintenance mode. Spring cloud has its own release cycles and sticking to them will make sure that you are able to focus on your applications and not worry about figuring out which dependencies are compatible.
Where Do You Start
The focus of this article is to introduce readers to Heroku. You could start by building, deploying and running applications for free. You could choose the computing engine that suits your needs starting at $7 a month per container/dyno.
The best place to start is the Heroku Dev Center. Choose your language, go through a quick tutorial, deploy your application, and feel the power. It is definitely a great experience to run and scale your application without having to worry about SSL, load balancing, OS, sdk, networking, orchestration or setting up monitoring. Heroku provides a web dashboard as well as a powerful CLI tool. You can also find a lot of addons at Heroku Elements Marketplace to enhance your application. A lot of them are available with a free tier as well.
Do Not Stop There
A blog on Dev.to comparing AWS and Heroku is a quick read on how Heroku provides added value compared to AWS.
You could benefit from the power of running microservice apps on Heroku along with the other services out there. You do not have to restrict yourselves to the Heroku elements. You could combine the power of Heroku along with AWS and other cloud provider offerings. As an example Okta developer provides a free tier with up to 1000 monthly active users to get you started with authentication. In one of the applications that we developed, we leveraged AWS Lambda function to recognize and parse documents (OCR using tesseract), and another function to support zipping documents for download. The idea is that you could build an awesome application that costs less than a $1/month per user with the ability to scale as needed. There are other competing products such as Pivotal Cloud Foundry, but Heroku is a developer-friendly place for small and medium size businesses to get started.
Published: June 27, 2019