Heroku Review

Heroku debacle


A blog post went viral this week and uncovered an issue in PaaS provider, Heroku’s routing mesh, which has caused a significant degradation of Ruby on Rails app performance. Essentially, over the past three years Heroku moved from “smart” to “random” web request routing among an account’s “dynos”, Heroku’s processing units. Each dyno runs about $35/month.

The change in architecture, which is explained in detail here, is only a portion of why Heroku is catching heat. Here are the real reasons:

Same cost, less value

First and foremost, there have been no reductions in price for the net reduction in capacity provided by the service. This is especially frustrating to the community at a time when other PaaS providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) continue to lower their prices. Heroku’s platform leverages AWS in its architecture. Over time, users were purchasing more dynos for their accounts with diminishing returns. Each additional $35 dyno does not provide $35 in value.

Appearance of deception

Second, Heroku boasts robust monitoring tools that allow you to see the performance of your applications across many layers of their architecture. However, the monitoring tools provided by Heroku and New Relic don’t reflect the area of latency caused by random request routing. For a highly sophisticated platform provider, this oversight comes across to the community as deceptive rather than as an oversight.

Lack of coherent communication

Finally, there was no communication to customers about the change, and no consistent and coherent documentation. In fact, documentation around Heroku’s site was confusing and contradictory. Again, the appearance of deception.

Response

Heroku is responding openly and humbly, which is the proper way to handle the situation, but there are many who don’t think the responses go far enough. They want monetary reparations as well. I’d guess Heroku is considering concessions quietly by necessity as they are part of a publicly traded company and any concessions could have an impact on current and prior period financials of the company.

The whole debacle reminds us that the lack of transparency over time can cause much larger PR problems for companies than the issues themselves. Individual customers have the platform to tell their story and initiate change.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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