Firstly, I love Heroku!
It’s my personal “go-to” platform for development and I have even deployed a number of enterprise applications on the service with great success.
Here’s the problem, PaaS has finally gone mainstream, resulting in an increasingly competitive market, with many services now focused on enterprise organisations.
For example, I’ve spent the last couple of months investigating Pivotal Cloud Foundry and RedHat OpenShift. These are two Polyglot PaaS environments that have a lot of overlap with Heroku. In fact, in the case of Cloud Foundry, they even leverage some of the same components (e.g. Buildpacks, created by Heroku).
Both Cloud Foundry and OpenShift have gained good market momentum, with Cloud Foundry reporting the fastest first-year sales growth for an open-source project ever. They also have well established links into the enterprise, with RedHat building on their strong deployment of RedHat Enterprise Linux and Pivotal with their connections to EMC, VMware, etc.
These services also offer a suite of enterprise focused features, such as the ability to deploy on top of multiple infrastructure stacks (covering on-premise and in the cloud), as well as future support for Docker, something that RedHat is taking very seriously with OpenShift v3.0.
So where does this leave Heroku for the Enterprise?
If I was an enterprise looking for a Polyglot PaaS, why would I pick Heroku? On the surface, I can get every feature of Heroku from Cloud Foundry or OpenShift, whilst at the same time having the flexibility to deploy my own PaaS instance on almost any infrastructure stack (even behind my own firewall).
This is made worse by the fact that Heroku have not been particularly forthcoming regarding their future roadmap. They’ve done some good work with their security model and continue to expand their trust story (e.g. Safe Harbour, etc), but what about the rumoured VPC or future Docker support? When compared to Pivotal and RedHat, the difference in night and day, as both companies have a clear roadmap (e.g. Cloud Foundry Diego and OpenShift v3.0).
Can Heroku Conquer the Enterprise?
In my opinion, for Heroku to successfully compete for the Enterprise, they need to take advantage of their unique selling point… Force.com.
Since the acquisition by Salesforce.com in 2010, I feel like Heroku has lost it’s focus and momentum, whilst at the same time failed to capitalise on the advantages of the broader Salesforce.com eco-system.
As a result, if I was CEO for the day, I would make Heroku part of every Force.com platform license. For example, if you purchased a Force.com App License, it should automatically come with monthly Heroku dyno capacity (similar to what Microsoft position with O365 and Azure).
This approach would encourage all Force.com customers (which includes a lot of enterprise organisations) to use Heroku, instead of looking elsewhere.
In addition to the bundled licensing, I would make services such as “Heroku Connect” completely free for Force.com customers, allowing developers to easily synchronise data between the two platforms, without any limitations. This should also include Force.com API limits, which Heroku Connect should be exempt from as both platforms are owned by Salesforce.com.
If Heroku was positioned in this way, it would suddenly become a very interesting proposition for any Force.com customer, making it very difficult to ignore when positioning a Polyglot PaaS capability. It would also act as a clear differentiator to Cloud Foundry and OpenShift, giving Heroku a much needed unique selling point.
I believe Heroku must act now if they want to remain relevant to enterprise customers. This means, Salesforce.com must remove all barriers for their existing customers and drive clear synergy between Heroku and Force.com, as well as their broader eco-system (e.g. Exact Target, etc).
Without this proactive strategy, I fear Heroku will remain a niche service for start-ups, never fully realising its potential.