Heroku: Up and Running - Short Review

Disclaimer: I read the early release version of this book. Some details may change between the version I read the final, published one.

The first two chapters of Heroku: Up and Running are my favourite of the book. After the usual selling and explanation of virtual servers and the arrival of ‘The Cloud’ the authors cover the concept, culture and technical architecture of Heroku. The technical details of a closed company are never covered as deeply as you’d like but the material here is interesting, explains quite a lot of Herokus main technology and approaches and how th platform has evolved to enhance an opinionated work flow that seems to suit many developers.

In chapter 3 you get a walk through on the performance and scaling issues that come with most cloud architecture based applications. While there’s nothing amazingly new here for the more experienced readers the coverage is perfectly fine and if you’ve never had these issues before it’s a great first read to help you get your head around them. Chapter 4 explains Herokus take on regions and how to duplicate your application over multiple locations.

Chapter 5 contains a grab-bag of information on one of Herokus most impressive features, its hosted PostgreSQL offering. This is the closest match to Amazons MySQL RDS I’ve seen for people that want to run PostgreSQL and while this section won’t teach you the database it does cover a lot of the more important concerns of running it under Heroku.

The final three chapters of the book, deployment, ‘when it goes wrong’ and Buildpacks help round out the basic knowledge you’ll need to start using Heroku for your own applications and give you some good starting points for when your first couple of pushes have issues.

I had no exposure to Heroku before reading this book and now I’ve finished it I feel like I know enough to both evaluate its offerings (as of now, the cloud platforms change quite rapidly) and host a basic application on a very sensibly built hosted architecture. The writing is clear and focused and the coverage is broad but not very deep. If you’re new to Heroku this book will do exactly what the title claims - in just a lunch break or two.

I really enjoyed the first couple of chapters but I don’t think it has any re-read value so I’m going to give this a 6/10. I’d love to see a more general book about building and operating a PaaS by the same authors.