Heroku announces plans to eliminate free plans, blaming 'fraud and abuse'

·3-min read

After offering them for over a decade, Heroku today announced that it will eliminate all of its free services -- pushing users to paid plans. Starting November 28, the Salesforce-owned cloud platform as a service will stop providing free product plans and shut down free data services and soon (on October 26) will begin deleting inactive accounts and associated storage for accounts that have been inactive for over a year.

In a blog post, Bob Wise, Heroku general manager and Salesforce EVP, blamed "abuse" on the demise of the free services, which span the free plans for Heroku Dynos and Heroku Postgres as well as the free plan for Heroku Data for Redis. "Our product, engineering, and security teams are spending an extraordinary amount of effort to manage fraud and abuse of the Heroku free product plans," Wise said. "We will continue to provide low-cost solutions for compute and data resources."

Wise went on to note that Heroku will be announcing a student program at Salesforce's upcoming Dreamforce conference in September, but the details remain a mystery at this point.

For the uninitiated, Heroku allows programmers to build, run and scale apps across programming languages including Java, PHP, Scala and Go. Salesforce acquired the company for $212 million in 2010 and subsequently introduced support for Node.js and Clojure and Heroku for Facebook, a package to simplify the process of deploying Facebook apps on Heroku infrastructure.

Heroku claims on its website that it's been used to develop 13 million apps to date.

It's not only hobbyists that'll be affected by the phasing out of Heroku's free tiers. In a discussion thread on Y Combinator's Hacker News forum, some users note that Heroku's no-cost plans were a convenient staging ground for testing apps prior to their deployment. One user going by the name "driverdan" said that many of his company's apps only need free-tier databases and "dynos" (Heroku nomenclature for Linux containers), and that migrating to Heroku's paid plans will significantly increase costs while -- from his perspective -- adding few benefits.

"This change will roughly double the cost of a basic app on pro dynos + DB + redis, from $25/m to $49/m [sic]," driverdan wrote. For reference, Heroku Dynos starts at $7 per month, Heroku Data for Redis starts at $15 per month and Heroku Postgres starts at $9 per month. "If this change included a reduction in pricing to better match alternatives it would be fine. But as is this change will significantly increase the cost for anyone using some free resources."

One might argue that's the point -- Salesforce is a business, after all. But the pivot isn't exactly the best look only months after a hacker accessed Heroku's GitHub account and managed to steal customer passwords. Moreover, it comes as the competition for platform as a service grows fiercer, with startups like Porter, Railway, Render, Fly.io and Clever Cloud vying for a slice of Heroku's business with compelling pricing and features.

In any case, Heroku's prospects became a tad bit murkier today.