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Heroku vs Kubernetes: What are the differences?

Heroku: Build, deliver, monitor and scale web apps and APIs with a trail blazing developer experience. Heroku is a cloud application platform – a new way of building and deploying web apps. Heroku lets app developers spend 100% of their time on their application code, not managing servers, deployment, ongoing operations, or scaling; Kubernetes: Manage a cluster of Linux containers as a single system to accelerate Dev and simplify Ops. Kubernetes is an open source orchestration system for Docker containers. It handles scheduling onto nodes in a compute cluster and actively manages workloads to ensure that their state matches the users declared intentions.

Heroku can be classified as a tool in the "Platform as a Service" category, while Kubernetes is grouped under "Container Tools".

Some of the features offered by Heroku are:

  • Agile deployment for Ruby, Node.js, Clojure, Java, Python, Go and Scala.
  • Run and scale any type of app.
  • Total visibility across your entire app.

On the other hand, Kubernetes provides the following key features:

  • Lightweight, simple and accessible
  • Built for a multi-cloud world, public, private or hybrid
  • Highly modular, designed so that all of its components are easily swappable

"Easy deployment", "Free for side projects" and "Huge time-saver" are the key factors why developers consider Heroku; whereas "Leading docker container management solution", "Simple and powerful" and "Open source" are the primary reasons why Kubernetes is favored.

Kubernetes is an open source tool with 55.1K GitHub stars and 19.1K GitHub forks. Here's a link to Kubernetes's open source repository on GitHub.

StackShare, Heroku, and Product Hunt are some of the popular companies that use Heroku, whereas Kubernetes is used by Google, Slack, and Shopify. Heroku has a broader approval, being mentioned in 1504 company stacks & 965 developers stacks; compared to Kubernetes, which is listed in 1048 company stacks and 1099 developer stacks.

Decisions about Heroku and Kubernetes
Simon Reymann
Senior Fullstack Developer at QUANTUSflow Software GmbH · | 28 upvotes · 3.3M views

Our whole DevOps stack consists of the following tools:

  • GitHub (incl. GitHub Pages/Markdown for Documentation, GettingStarted and HowTo's) for collaborative review and code management tool
  • Respectively Git as revision control system
  • SourceTree as Git GUI
  • Visual Studio Code as IDE
  • CircleCI for continuous integration (automatize development process)
  • Prettier / TSLint / ESLint as code linter
  • SonarQube as quality gate
  • Docker as container management (incl. Docker Compose for multi-container application management)
  • VirtualBox for operating system simulation tests
  • Kubernetes as cluster management for docker containers
  • Heroku for deploying in test environments
  • nginx as web server (preferably used as facade server in production environment)
  • SSLMate (using OpenSSL) for certificate management
  • Amazon EC2 (incl. Amazon S3) for deploying in stage (production-like) and production environments
  • PostgreSQL as preferred database system
  • Redis as preferred in-memory database/store (great for caching)

The main reason we have chosen Kubernetes over Docker Swarm is related to the following artifacts:

  • Key features: Easy and flexible installation, Clear dashboard, Great scaling operations, Monitoring is an integral part, Great load balancing concepts, Monitors the condition and ensures compensation in the event of failure.
  • Applications: An application can be deployed using a combination of pods, deployments, and services (or micro-services).
  • Functionality: Kubernetes as a complex installation and setup process, but it not as limited as Docker Swarm.
  • Monitoring: It supports multiple versions of logging and monitoring when the services are deployed within the cluster (Elasticsearch/Kibana (ELK), Heapster/Grafana, Sysdig cloud integration).
  • Scalability: All-in-one framework for distributed systems.
  • Other Benefits: Kubernetes is backed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), huge community among container orchestration tools, it is an open source and modular tool that works with any OS.
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Russel Werner
Lead Engineer at StackShare · | 0 upvote · 122.4K views

We began our hosting journey, as many do, on Heroku because they make it easy to deploy your application and automate some of the routine tasks associated with deployments, etc. However, as our team grew and our product matured, our needs have outgrown Heroku. I will dive into the history and reasons for this in a future blog post.

We decided to migrate our infrastructure to Kubernetes running on Amazon EKS. Although Google Kubernetes Engine has a slightly more mature Kubernetes offering and is more user-friendly; we decided to go with EKS because we already using other AWS services (including a previous migration from Heroku Postgres to AWS RDS). We are still in the process of moving our main website workloads to EKS, however we have successfully migrate all our staging and testing PR apps to run in a staging cluster. We developed a Slack chatops application (also running in the cluster) which automates all the common tasks of spinning up and managing a production-like cluster for a pull request. This allows our engineering team to iterate quickly and safely test code in a full production environment. Helm plays a central role when deploying our staging apps into the cluster. We use CircleCI to build docker containers for each PR push, which are then published to Amazon EC2 Container Service (ECR). An upgrade-operator process watches the ECR repository for new containers and then uses Helm to rollout updates to the staging environments. All this happens automatically and makes it really easy for developers to get code onto servers quickly. The immutable and isolated nature of our staging environments means that we can do anything we want in that environment and quickly re-create or restore the environment to start over.

The next step in our journey is to migrate our production workloads to an EKS cluster and build out the CD workflows to get our containers promoted to that cluster after our QA testing is complete in our staging environments.

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Pros of Heroku
Pros of Kubernetes
  • 704
    Easy deployment
  • 460
    Free for side projects
  • 374
    Huge time-saver
  • 348
    Simple scaling
  • 261
    Low devops skills required
  • 190
    Easy setup
  • 174
    Add-ons for almost everything
  • 154
    Beginner friendly
  • 150
    Better for startups
  • 133
    Low learning curve
  • 48
    Postgres hosting
  • 41
    Easy to add collaborators
  • 30
    Faster development
  • 24
    Awesome documentation
  • 19
    Focus on product, not deployment
  • 19
    Simple rollback
  • 15
    Natural companion for rails development
  • 15
    Easy integration
  • 12
    Great customer support
  • 8
    GitHub integration
  • 6
    No-ops
  • 6
    Painless & well documented
  • 4
    Free
  • 4
    I love that they make it free to launch a side project
  • 3
    Just works
  • 3
    Great UI
  • 2
    PostgreSQL forking and following
  • 2
    MySQL extension
  • 1
    Able to host stuff good like Discord Bot
  • 0
    Sec
  • 0
    Security
  • 159
    Leading docker container management solution
  • 124
    Simple and powerful
  • 101
    Open source
  • 75
    Backed by google
  • 56
    The right abstractions
  • 24
    Scale services
  • 18
    Replication controller
  • 9
    Permission managment
  • 7
    Simple
  • 7
    Supports autoscaling
  • 6
    Cheap
  • 4
    Self-healing
  • 4
    Reliable
  • 4
    No cloud platform lock-in
  • 3
    Open, powerful, stable
  • 3
    Scalable
  • 3
    Quick cloud setup
  • 3
    Promotes modern/good infrascture practice
  • 2
    Backed by Red Hat
  • 2
    Runs on azure
  • 2
    Cloud Agnostic
  • 2
    Custom and extensibility
  • 2
    Captain of Container Ship
  • 2
    A self healing environment with rich metadata
  • 1
    Golang
  • 1
    Easy setup
  • 1
    Everything of CaaS
  • 1
    Sfg
  • 1
    Expandable
  • 1
    Gke

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Cons of Heroku
Cons of Kubernetes
  • 23
    Super expensive
  • 6
    Not a whole lot of flexibility
  • 5
    No usable MySQL option
  • 5
    Storage
  • 4
    Low performance on free tier
  • 1
    24/7 support is $1,000 per month
  • 13
    Poor workflow for development
  • 11
    Steep learning curve
  • 5
    Orchestrates only infrastructure
  • 2
    High resource requirements for on-prem clusters

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- No public GitHub repository available -

What is Heroku?

Heroku is a cloud application platform – a new way of building and deploying web apps. Heroku lets app developers spend 100% of their time on their application code, not managing servers, deployment, ongoing operations, or scaling.

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is an open source orchestration system for Docker containers. It handles scheduling onto nodes in a compute cluster and actively manages workloads to ensure that their state matches the users declared intentions.

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What are some alternatives to Heroku and Kubernetes?
DigitalOcean
We take the complexities out of cloud hosting by offering blazing fast, on-demand SSD cloud servers, straightforward pricing, a simple API, and an easy-to-use control panel.
Google App Engine
Google has a reputation for highly reliable, high performance infrastructure. With App Engine you can take advantage of the 10 years of knowledge Google has in running massively scalable, performance driven systems. App Engine applications are easy to build, easy to maintain, and easy to scale as your traffic and data storage needs grow.
Firebase
Firebase is a cloud service designed to power real-time, collaborative applications. Simply add the Firebase library to your application to gain access to a shared data structure; any changes you make to that data are automatically synchronized with the Firebase cloud and with other clients within milliseconds.
Docker
The Docker Platform is the industry-leading container platform for continuous, high-velocity innovation, enabling organizations to seamlessly build and share any application — from legacy to what comes next — and securely run them anywhere
Microsoft Azure
Azure is an open and flexible cloud platform that enables you to quickly build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed datacenters. You can build applications using any language, tool or framework. And you can integrate your public cloud applications with your existing IT environment.
See all alternatives