Heroku Free Tier Discontinued - A Look into the Biggest Heroku Alternatives

Tyler Au
6 minutes
August 31st, 2023
Tyler Au
6 minutes
August 31st, 2023

The Need for Heroku Alternatives

Founded in 2007 and acquired by Salesforce in 2011, Heroku is one of the industry leaders when it comes to cloud platforms. Now officially a part of the Salesforce Platform, the name Heroku was synonymous with a free and beginner friendly way for developers to launch their first app or project.

Was synonymous. 

It was announced early last year that on November 28th, 2022, Heroku would remove free access for 3 critical solutions, and that starting October 6th, 2022, Heroku would be removing inactive accounts. In a bid to reduce and manage the fraud and abuse of free resources, Heroku is barring free access and instead offering a lower-priced tier option to those previously free services.

The solutions and services that Heroku restricted open access to are:

  • Heroku Dynos: lightweight Linux containers that execute code based on user commands
  • Heroku Postgres: Heroku’s managed SQL database
  • Heroku Data for Redis: a powerful data storage add on
Image Courtesy of Heroku

The removal of these solutions spells certain doom for projects and applications that relied on it. Many developers used Heroku to launch and manage their first applications and web pages, with tons of startups even being built on the foundation of free Heroku services. In addition, many of the free services were being used in boot camps because of their easy access to app testing grounds, removing opportunities for future developers to test their projects in a reliable environment. 

The consequences of this decision even a year later are still felt, as many companies and developers scrambled to find a new home for their applications and projects

With the division to remove free access being questioned by developers, it begs the question: why is Heroku revered in the first place?

Heroku: The Basis for Every Heroku Alternative

What’s the buzz around Heroku, anyway?

If you didn’t know, Heroku is a cloud platform that assists users in their application development, delivering, monitoring, and scaling. As Heroku puts it, they’re the fastest way to go from idea to URL, hyper focusing on the developer experience around applications. The cloud platform as a service (PaaS) deploys applications through the use of dynos, Linux containers that are managed by Heroku and run on Amazon EC2. What makes Heroku so alluring is the fact that it’s fully managed.

Heroku’s management extends to a majority of their features and applications, including their dynos, the Heroku platform itself, and the workflows that developers engage with. What this means for developers is that they have the freedom to focus on development tasks instead of infrastructure cleanup- with the occasional infrastructure maintenance being supported by Heroku’s suite of tools, services, and workflows.

Besides the full management aspect, the Heroku platform offers a means for businesses to increase their scaling capabilities, especially with the previous free tier option. Heroku’s capabilities were relied on by many, with their features including:

  • Multi Developmental Language Support
  • Easy and Stronger Usability through Dynos
  • Convenient Application Scaling
  • Plug-In Support

And so much more. 

With the support of Salesforce and easy integration with other powerful Salesforce tools, Heroku was a no-brainer when choosing platforms to host your apps on, especially because of the free tier. Free tier closure has since then left many companies blindsided on which platforms to run their applications on, leaving many Heroku alternatives with big shoes to fill.

Cloud Application Platform | Heroku
Image Courtesy of Heroku

The Top Alternatives to Heroku

The removal of free access to powerful solutions and tools like Heroku dynos and various Heroku data services have left many companies scrambling to find a new home for their applications, here are just a few of the alternatives out there:

Google App Engine

Google App Engine is a fully managed serverless platform designed to help web developers build, deploy, and host web applications. Like Heroku, Google App Engine offers support for many development languages, though it requires that applications are written in Java or Python. And also like Heroku, Google App Engine provides a managed infrastructure, helping developers to increase their actual development time and productivity. This platform provides auto scaling and automatic load balancing, and easily integrates with plugins and 3rd party tools - features that many Heroku users have enjoyed. 

Where Google App Engine may have an edge over competitors is its ecosystem and its pricing. Being a part of the Google cloud ecosystem is a feat in itself, with many developers using Google cloud services to create groundbreaking apps. In regards to the pricing, Google App Engine users enjoy a pay-as-you-go pricing plan, letting you scale your budget as your app’s usage increases. And of course, they have a free option.

App Engine Application Platform | Google Cloud
Image Courtesy of Google App Engine

AWS Elastic Beanstalk

The Elastic Beanstalk is a managed platform in the AWS ecosystem used for deploying and scaling web apps, with the intention of saving compute resources and developer time. Like Google App Engine, AWS Elastic Beanstalk is very development-language friendly, supporting most languages in the hosted infrastructure. And like the previously mentioned option, Elastic Beanstalk handles the automation of scaling and load balancing, letting developers focus on the task at hand without having to worry about infrastructure and uptime. 

AWS Elastic Beanstalk gives developers the freedom to choose and configure the environment their application is hosted in, as well as deployment rules. Offering other features like preconfigured environments, easy database integration, and powerful security through AWS Identity and Access Management, the Elastic Beanstalk is a formidable option in the Heroku alternatives game. 

AWS Elastic Beanstalk is included in the AWS limited free plan, where free compute resources and services are offered for a 12 month period. After that timeframe, users will have to pay for their usage. 

Diagram showing how AWS Elastic Beanstalk lets users create environments to upload and set up applications.
Image Courtesy of AWS Elastic Beanstalk

Lyrid.io

The Lyrid platform provides the perfect Heroku alternative and a great infrastructure automation option for development teams everywhere.

Lyrid focuses on empowering developers by helping them build, deploy, manage, and run their applications through an automated cloud infrastructure deployment process, saving up to 15 hours per week on non-developer tasks. 

Like many of the options in this blog, Lyrid provides features like automatic scaling and load balancing, automated cluster and VM management, and managed hosting and databases, just to name a few. With the emphasis on containerization, microservices, and Kubernetes, the Lyrid platform focuses on providing you with cost-efficient, industry-grade solutions that can scale and meet the demand of your applications.  

Lyrid offers a flexible pricing plan that starts at no cost and no commitment. Like most paid plans, the benefits and access increase as prices increase, but Lyrid’s free tier offers everything needed to get your project up and running and your app deployed. Everything could be built with Lyrid cloud services: web apps, static sites, enterprise software- the world is in your hands. 

To learn more about Lyrid, sign up for a demo!

Vercel

One of the biggest Heroku competitors even before the announcement of the free tier closure, Vercel is a cloud platform that is primarily a frontend-as-a-service product. Vercel, like the options mentioned above, enables developers to build, deploy, and host web apps and web services, letting users also create custom domains. Also like the previously mentioned alternatives, Vercel seeks to provide a seamless developer experience and create the means for heightened developer freedom, which is supported through the platform’s many automations (like scaling and deployment) and extensive support of development languages and frameworks. What sets this platform apart from the other options is its direct integration with Github, making continuous deployments easier to achieve. 

Unlike some of the previous options, Vercel hosts one of the most impressive free tier options. Listed on their website as the Hobby plan, Vercel’s free plan offers starter databases, serverless and edge functions, and an expansive support for frameworks- just to name a few features. Vercel’s paid plan offers the same features with higher capabilities and even more support. 

MongoDB and Vercel: from idea to global fullstack app in seconds – Vercel
Image Courtesy of Vercel

The Next Step in Finding Free Alternatives to Heroku

1 year since this announcement, the closure of the Heroku free tier is making waves within the community, pushing many companies to relocate their applications and forcing many developers to look into different hosting options.

Whether you’re looking for big providers like Google and Amazon, or more cost-effective yet powerful options like the ones provided by Lyrid, free alternatives to Heroku are all around. 

If you’re looking to try Lyrid out for free today, book a demo here!

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