Gems from the Heroku Mailing List

February 14, 2008

(Gems pun intended)

OK, so the mailing list is actually only two days old, but here are some things to know, found there and elsewhere (I had overlooked a whole window of options there, sorry):

  • No real version control yet, but it should be coming. You can, however, take “snapshots” and presumably roll back to them.
  • You can import and export whole apps.
  • If I understand this correctly, your app has to be “blessed” or “Kagirinai” (限りない?) before it can access external services, to use a non-Heroku domain name, etc. This includes “higher resource limits,” even though I haven’t seen clear resource limits.
  • Plugins which depend extensively on C extensions can be problematic. Insha’ Allah it will be fixed
  • Mongrel behind Nginx + Postgres, if you’re wondering.
  • Your app is only viewable to registered whatevers by default, you have to make it public.
  • If something doesn’t seem to work right away, it might fix itself overnight. Or vice-versa.
  • They’re planning an “electric company” style pricing model. (Why wouldn’t they just call this AWS-style?) That is pay-as-you-use. And they plan to keep “small/low usage apps free forever.” I was going to write that it seems likely that “the blessed” will become “the billed.” Then I noticed that that is explicitly stated on the beatification blessing request form.

This really does look like a great plan for solving the deployment issue – in which the two sides really haven’t understood each other. Rails is an ideal solution for many types of small business, but the hosting was just so impractical. Of course, it’s not tested yet, but this should be a way for developers to offer small business clients an application that can move smoothly from prototype to limited to minimal to serious access, without the client having to commit to a VPS from the start. That makes a huge difference. Would have been nice to have had this a year or two ago. The only snag I see is the no access to any sort of network service at the free level. (No sending mail, no major APIs, no integrating with related apps, no nothing.) This is a barrier in the prototyping stage (yeah, of course you can develop off of Heroku and import it, and I imagine that’s going to be the case, anyway, for most serious work, but the whole JavaScript IDE is a big part of the coolness here.) I hope the bump from free to low-level paid is a smooth one. (Otherwise, it replicates the problems with private hosting and ec2.)

I also imagine there will be other solutions to the Rails-hosting issue itself popping up left and right. Private hosting itself is getting more affordable and more Rails-friendly. (Thank you, Slicehost.) Shared hosts – assuming they don’t disappear eventually – will find ways to support working Rails apps. (Heroku itself may be the model.) AWS itself is also a beautiful thing, enabling so much.

Aw, isn’t the world great through Ruby-colored spectacles?

One point/idea, raised peripherally in a post on the mailing list and explicitly in a personal conversation recently is, “What will be the model for affordable hosting of Camping apps?” Or, basically something just short of a private server. Or not – rather something between Heroku and a private server. Or something ning-like? Obviously, the problem is evil people. And stupid people. But those are the problem at every other level of the hosting problem. So there must be some way to give just the right amount of access. hmmm…

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