The cloud is proving a blessing to many developers, enabling them to quickly deploy, test, and scale applications without having to worry about building and managing complex server infrastructures.
Linode and Heroku have built loyal followings by providing solid and dependable service, great tools, and outstanding support. The key difference between Linode and Heroku is the amount of system administration and resources provided—including memory, computing power, disk storage, and connections—which is reflected in the pricing.
Heroku is higher end, offering a richer set of resources, higher scalability, and full system administration services, while Linode is more bare bones, offering a sparer set of resources and leaving system administration to the customer.
Linode, as the name suggests, provides Linux nodes, and offers a toolset to ease the provisioning and management of Linux nodes. Developers tend to use Linode for PHP and Ruby on Rails applications. Heroku specializes in Ruby on Rails applications, but has added support for Java, Python, and other languages.
A big benefit that Heroku and Linode offer developers is taking much of the labor and pain out of hosting a Ruby on Rails application. In the past, as IBM developer Antonio Cangiano notes, “Keeping a Rails site up and running required considerable hosting know-how and effort.”
Because of services like Heroku and Linode, says Cangiano, “These days, you no longer need to make a major investment when it comes to your time, money and resources in order to host a simple Rails site.”
Besides system administration support, the main difference between Linode and Heroku is the power and scale they provide. You can see these differences reflected in their pricing. Heroku offers six plans priced from $200 to $6,400 per month. Linode offers six plans priced from $19.95 to $159.95 per month, plus four higher-end plans from $319.95 to $799.95 per month.
As one user said: “I am a customer of both Linode and Heroku, and use them for different things. My Linode is my sandbox, with a handful of PHP projects (very small) running. It's mostly for development, and control over everything lets me tinker. When it comes to deploying an app, however, I always go to Heroku.”
Heroku and Linode each provide a free plan as well. For tinkering and small-scale projects, these free services are a great deal. As one developer said, “Heroku’s free package can get you a long way.”
Bottom Line: If you are a price-sensitive DIY type with smaller-scale projects, Linode is for you. If you want high-end service or need to deploy a production app that requires more power, scalability, and full sys admin support, then Heroku is the way to go.