Heroku vs Docker: Which is Best for Developers?

Heroku vs Docker: Which is Best for Developers?

Heroku and Docker are both container-based development environments, ideal for developers to deploy applications without needing the resources required for virtual machines or physical servers. Containers are flexible, scalable, and because they contain a kernel of the operating system in each container, work seamlessly across a range of devices.

But how do developers know which development environment is best for them? We explore Heroku vs Docker and the pros and cons of each platform.

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What is Heroku?

Heroku has legacy status as a cloud platform, hailing from the early days of 2007. Heroku is classed as a Platform as a Service or PaaS. Originally designed to work with Ruby, Heroku now supports Python, Node.js, Java, plus a range of other programming languages. Heroku also runs Django apps.

Heroku BuildPacks are templates that decide the language the app can run in, while the containers themselves are based on Linux and called Dynos. As well as Dynos, developers can utilize Heroku add-ons to enhance their applications. Heroku Runtime runs and manages your webapp. It's also possible to use Heroku to deploy with Git.

What is Docker?

Docker is an open-source development tool for app developers to create and deploy their apps inside Docker containers at operating system-level virtualization.

Docker images are built by running Dockerfiles. The Docker image contains absolutely everything the resulting container will need, including:

·    Dependencies

·    Relevant data

·    Resources

·    Settings

Running a Docker image creates a Docker container, and images can be stored and retrieved from a container registry. Tools like Docker Compose support multiple containers within apps.

Heroku vs Docker: Pros and Cons

At first glance, it might seem that both platforms run in a fairly similar way. Both use a command-line interface (CLI) for managing containers, and both have similar ways of deploying containers. So, what are the key differences between Heroku and Docker? Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of both development environments.

Heroku Pros

·     Heroku is entirely cloud-based, which as a PaaS, can be very handy for flexibility and resource management. However, check out the cons section – it doesn’t suit all DevOps teams.

·     Heroku supports a multitude of languages.

·     BuildPacks allow developers to deploy their apps in any of these languages.

·     Dynos are easily scalable.

·    Developers don’t have to worry about resource management or maintaining an operating system.

Heroku Cons

·    Because Heroku will only work via Heroku’s own cloud-based platform, it has some limitations which don’t suit all developers.

·     Heroku is tied to Linux and won’t use any other operating system.

·    Most Heroku packages are not free, so pricing can be an issue.

Docker Pros

·    Like Heroku, Docker can run on the cloud, although it needs a separate cloud-based platform, for example, Amazon Web Services (AWS). It’s also possible to install Docker on your own computers. That’s preferable for some organizations that must have everything on-premises for compliance purposes, such as government or healthcare agencies.

·     Docker works on just about any platform and works with Windows as well as Ubuntu and more.

·     Docker pricing is easier to manage as it’s based on the platform you choose to deploy on, e.g. AWS.

Docker Cons

·    Because Docker has so many options and flexibility, it can be tricky to configure correctly.

·    Some developers experience latency, although this is avoidable by managing resources correctly.

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Heroku Vs Docker: The Bottom Line

Both development options have their benefits, and both have their limitations. For experienced developers who are confident managing their own resources, Docker seems to have the most flexibility, plus it’s inexpensive and portable as well as scalable.

Whilst Heroku also wins in terms of scalability, it loses points for a lack of portability – developers have to use the Heroku platform or Heroku_app, and there’s no option to move Heroku in-house. However, that also has benefits in terms of resource management and maintenance.

Heroku vs Docker: Which is Best for Developers?

Iron.io and Containerized Apps

Iron.io offers a number of hosted solutions for developers that want to make the most of containerized environments. IronWorker deals with your background tasks or automation and is completely scalable, managing 1 to 1000s of tasks without you or your teams having to worry about finding extra resources.

Talk to Iron.io today about the support we can offer, and let us guide you through the functionality of Docker, Heroku, Kubernetes, and other container-based solutions.

Unlock the Cloud with Iron.io

Find out how IronWorker and IronMQ can help your application obtain the cloud with fanatical customer support, reliable performance, and competitive pricing.


  1. blank Konrad on January 2, 2022 at 8:33 pm

    You can easily run Heroku locally.
    Use “heroku local” command. Heroku CLI has to be installed on the local machine.

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