First impressions: Digital Ocean App Platform

When I first learned about the new Digital Ocean App Platform, I was pretty excited to see Heroku have some competition! We use Heroku on many projects and love its simplicity, but hate how quickly it can get expensive.

I attempted to set up one of our client’s projects on this new platform to give it a spin. Here is my experience.

Digital Ocean vs. Heroku

Pros Cons
Compared to Heroku, there’s quite a bit less to learn No free database to test against, must pay $7/mo
Scaling up a bit should be cheaper than Heroku Very few add ons
Fresh, has the opportunity to grow with community input May not support many non-trivial apps because of lacking add-ons
  Similar to Heroku, DigitalOcean has a cli but not nearly as many features
  In its infancy still


Creating an app

Add on support

Currently, the Digital Ocean App Platform only has the following add ons:

Compared to Heroku’s dozens of add ons that’s not very impressive! For example: what if I need to process thumbnails in the background after a user registers? Center it, optimize the file sizes, make multiple versions (i.e. thumbnail)… how do I do that?

To do things in the background nicely, I have to learn a new concept: workers. I already have a toolchain I like using and ways to monitor it, and all of my existing modules expect to play in this environment. I use Celery + RabbitMQ or Redis and that stack is battle-tested by thousands of other companies.

Another example of where lacking add ons may hurt is logging or general app analytics. Heroku has many options in Sentry, New Relic, and BugSnag. Why is your app slow? Why did that user have a problem registering yesterday? Questions you may not be able to easily answer on the Digital Ocean App Platform at the moment!


The database is a minimum of $7/mo, with no free tier. A little disappointing, Heroku has a Free tier for Postgres with excellent backups and such. It’s extremely inviting to have free tiers when tinkering around. It has kept me loyal to Heroku for a long time!

Scaling, though, Digital Ocean looks more attractive.

To get a dyno with >= 2gb memory on Heroku you need to spend a minimum of $250/mo. On Digital Ocean, you only need to spend $20/mo!

More reading

Heroku vs AWS

Django + Cloudcube on Heroku

Final thoughts

I’m excited to see how this pans out, but what I’d really, really, like to see is some docker-compose support! It’d be so neat to throw up a server and have new processes managed automatically with nice defaults. Our primary concern is business logic, would love not to have to worry so much about configuring yet-another-new-thing :)