Heroku Expands Cloud Services For Enterprise Development - InformationWeek

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2/19/2015
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Heroku Expands Cloud Services For Enterprise Development

Heroku has added access controls and code deployment capabilities to its Platform-as-a-Service, which runs on top of Amazon's EC2.

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Heroku, whose Platform-as-a-Service is used for app development at firms such as Lyft and Instacart, launched Heroku Enterprise today. The updated development platform offers increased collaboration and control over a software project than was previously available on the Heroku's Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).

Many different forms of PaaS exist, but five-year-old Heroku's offering is an example of an independent-minded PaaS that is designed to serve as a general-purpose platform. Unlike other PaaS suppliers, which tend to be associated with a proprietary language, Heroku has supported a variety of languages widely used in Web application development. They are: Java, scala, Python, Ruby, PHP, and Node.js. Google App Engine, another well-known PaaS platform, initially supported Python, later adding Java, and later still Go and PHP.

Heroku has eschewed specialization, adroitly adding features used by the general development community. One recently added feature is an ability to link freshly minted code via GitHub, the frequently used online code repository, to an existing application. Code pushed by a development team to GitHub can be linked to an app on Heroku and automatically deployed to it. The integration speeds the addition of fully tested code to an existing app.

(Image: Benjamin Nelan via Pixabay)

(Image: Benjamin Nelan via Pixabay)

A new collaboration feature allows a wider team of developers, project managers, system administrators, partners, and contractors to work together on an application or a group of apps. "Enterprises are looking for a more powerful collaboration capability," noted Jesper Joergensen, senior director of product management, in an interview with InformationWeek. Heroku is trying to provide wider collaboration that is still under the review and control of a few overall managers, he said.

For example, an application that made use of the language combination available on Heroku could be worked on by different teams under the new Enterprise collaboration umbrella. Lyft and Instacart are two firms that make use of Heroku for app development and can benefit from the platform's capabilities, said Joergensen.

"The recipe these companies are using in application development is a dramatically different model," Joergensen added. He pointed to its elements of heavy reliance on open source code, varying languages, and wider collaboration as examples. Controls needed to be added "without taking away agility," he noted. Part of that approach is fine-grained access control, where privileges can be associated with the name and role of the user.

[ What every PaaS provider needs to ask itself. See Are Docker Containers Essential To PaaS? ]

The Enterprise platform give a project manager the ability to manage multiple teams from a single dashboard. The use of the Heroku public-facing API for platform services can be combined with services from Git, GitHub, and Dropbox, Joergensen said.

In addition, Heroku Enterprise maintains detailed user activity logs for tracking activities and application update logging for tracking code changes and transparency in the development process.

"Fine-grained access lets one team focus on development, another team focus on deployment," which can speed new mobile application deployments into consumer use, Joergensen said.

Heroku tracks which code libraries an application uses, and monitors those libraries for reports of any vulnerabilities. When one is announced, it can notify application owners that they need to pay attention and update their code.

Heroku is owned by Salesforce, which has kept it functioning as an independent PaaS on top of Amazon Web Services EC2 cloud. Saleforce also offers its own proprietary PaaS, Force.com, for developing custom additions and new applications for its Saleforce.com applications. Heroku Connect on the Heroku PaaS can synchronize data on an application there with one on the Salesforce1 platform, which includes Force.com and the Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Over the course of five years, the Heroku platform has hosted the development of 4 million applications, though Joergensen added that they were not all necessarily running on the platform today. One result is that it fields 5 billion HTTP requests for application services a day, he said.

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Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
2/19/2015 | 8:20:59 PM
Python 3? Hmmm, not sure about that
I don't know aobut Python 3, Tom. Current Google SDK download for Python is version 1.9.17, which is pretty conservative, possibly reflecting Google's use of the language itself. Go is the hot one now.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/19/2015 | 6:17:48 PM
Re: Did Salesforce get its money's worth in buying Heroku?
Do you think Google will ever support Python 3 on App Engine or is Google trying to promote Go instead?
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
2/19/2015 | 2:02:36 PM
Vive la PaaS difference.
SamRay, yes, it's a little blase to refer to many different forms of PaaS. But that's the case. Google App Engine started out as a platform that welcomed and supported the creation of Python applications. Why? Because Google's favorite language at the time was Python. Azure was focused on C# and other .Net tools because it was Microsoft's PaaS. PaaS emerged as opionated cloud development environments: the sponsoring vendor was expressing its opinions about what's valuable to development in a cloud environment. Heroku, Engine Yard, Red Hat's OpenShift, and Cloud Foundry have sought to get away from single vendor opinions and become general purpose environments. But it takes many more graphs to explain the differences, and that's not the purpose of this piece. 
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
2/19/2015 | 1:52:40 PM
Did Salesforce get its money's worth in buying Heroku?
JPMorganthal, you bring up a good point. Salesforce acquired Heroku about four years ago but did not bring it in-house or merge it into Force.com, which was a good thing. CEO Marc Benioff said at the time that customers wanted Force.com to be more open. In announcing the Heroku acquisition, he said, "We heard you." But how much can Salesforce customers use it? Heroku remains very much its own thing. I've always liked it as an independent PaaS and will leave it to Heroku and Salesforce to determine how much they need to work together. Perhaps the main question is whether Salesforce got its money's worth, a question that does not keep me up at night. Cloud Foundry issue is trickier but I vote for continued Heroku independence.
SamRay
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SamRay,
User Rank: Strategist
2/19/2015 | 1:31:30 PM
Superfluous different
This article says "Many different forms of PaaS exist". In that phrase, "different" is superfluous, right? I often see the word "different" being used like that. If it does say something meanignful then I sure do not understand.
jpmorgenthal-tw
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jpmorgenthal-tw,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/19/2015 | 9:15:17 AM
Why Does SalesForce.com continue to remain an outlier on PaaS?
Interestingly, Heroku already shares many common elements with CloudFoundry, why does SalesForce.com continue to remain independent in the field of PaaS? It's not a differentiator for them and being part of the CloudFoundry organization incorporates Heroku as an option for viable PaaS candidates. The fact that they can have an industry leading open source platform delivering their valuable CRM, sales and marketing functions seems to be a major win.
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