After axing free plans, Heroku introduces ‘low cost’ tier including scale to zero

After axing free plans, Heroku introduces ‘low cost’ tier including scale to zero

Salesforce-owned Heroku is introducing new low-cost dyno plans, called Eco, to mitigate its decision last month to end free plans from November 28 this year, and to delete inactive accounts and storage.

Eco plans will cost $5.00 for 1,000 compute hours per month, and will sleep (scale to zero) after 30 minutes of no traffic. There are also new “mini” plans for Postgres and Redis databases, with up to 10,000 rows in Postgres for $5.00 per month, and 25MB in Redis for $3.00. The offer can be used for one or more Eco dynos, provided the combined compute hours stays within the limit.

Heroku Dynos

A dyno is Heroku jargon for a Linux container that can be anything from a small web application to a component in a larger application. Dynos come in web server or worker flavors, and come preconfigured for a runtime of the developer’s choice, with options including Ruby, Node.js, Java, PHP, Python, Scala, Clojure or Go.

Until now, the free tier offered up to 1000 hours per month with two processes and 512MB RAM. Another feature of free dynos is that they sleep when inactive, not consuming any hours. 

The company said though that “our product, engineering, and security teams are spending an extraordinary amount of effort to manage fraud and abuse of the Heroku free product plans,” and decided to withdraw the free tier in a move that disappointed its community. The free tier is not only useful to fraudsters. Heroku’s documentation relies on the free tier for its getting started tutorials, for example, which are now festooned with warnings about the ending of the offer. 

Developers have also complained at the removal of the scale to zero option, which was unique to the free tier. Heroku presents “always on” as a useful feature of its paid plans, but for apps in development or only used occasionally, it is a disadvantage. That said, staying up for 30 minutes after a single request is a limitation. “If you want to run a small cron job once an hour, you’ll still pay for half a month of usage,” said one developer.

Although the low-cost option will be welcome, it is not equivalent to the old free tier. Developers in search of free hosting for experiments and prototypes have options elsewhere. For example, Oracle has a generous free tier. Microsoft Azure offers up to 60 CPU minutes free per day for its App Service, and AWS offers up to 1 million Lambda requests per month in its free tier.