Heroku has long been held up as the gold-standard platform as a service (PaaS) for software developers to easily deploy their code without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure, while others see it as akin to a magical fallen civilization with a limited future.
“The history of IT is littered with platforms people thought were fantastic that don’t exist anymore,” said James Governor, a founder of the developer-focused analyst firm RedMonk. “It had a good run and a huge influence, but nothing lasts forever.”
Founded in 2007 by three Ruby developers—James Lindenbaum, Adam Wiggins, and Orion Henry—Heroku was bought just three years later, when the SaaS giant Salesforce eventually beat out VMware to pick the company up for $212 million when it still had only 30 people on staff and supported only the Ruby programming language.
“I believe Heroku was one of the most revolutionary products of its generation and pushed web development further forward than it gets credit for,” said Jason Warner, head of engineering at Heroku between 2014 and 2017. “It is also one of the most confounding, because it was so ahead of its time. It looked like magic at the time, and people were blown away by it, but it started to calcify under Salesforce. It should never have been a PaaS; it should have been a multilayered cake of PaaS with various escape hatches to build out with Kubernetes or go multicloud, but that wasn’t what was to be.”
“The next big thing for Heroku is the deep integration of its capabilities with the rest of the Salesforce Platform via Salesforce Functions,” a Salesforce spokesperson said. Salesforce Functions “lets developers write code that integrates with their data and events on the Salesforce Platform, then run it on-demand with elastic scale in a serverless environment.”
If serverless were to become the next industry standard, there is certainly an opportunity there for Heroku to reshape itself for that next wave of change. “I would leapfrog microservices for serverless if I did this again today,” said PensionBee’s Lister Parsons. “Serverless could be the ‘phoenix from the ashes’ moment for Heroku.”
I still use Heroku for some projects but it's usage is getting less and less.