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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.

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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