Heroku has long been held up as the gold-standard platform as a service (PaaS) for software developers to easily deploy their code without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure, while others see it as akin to a magical fallen civilization with a limited future.

“The history of IT is littered with platforms people thought were fantastic that don’t exist anymore,” said James Governor, a founder of the developer-focused analyst firm RedMonk. “It had a good run and a huge influence, but nothing lasts forever.”

Heroku’s architectural limitations and the high cost of running a business on the platform have historically hindered its ability to truly scale beyond a core set of web 2.0 customers, but there is still hope that Heroku is setting itself up for a glorious second act.

Heroku’s revolutionary legacy

Founded in 2007 by three Ruby developers—James Lindenbaum, Adam Wiggins, and Orion Henry—Heroku was bought just three years later, when the SaaS giant Salesforce eventually beat out VMware to pick the company up for $212 million when it still had only 30 people on staff and supported only the Ruby programming language.

“I believe Heroku was one of the most revolutionary products of its generation and pushed web development further forward than it gets credit for,” said Jason Warner, head of engineering at Heroku between 2014 and 2017. “It is also one of the most confounding, because it was so ahead of its time. It looked like magic at the time, and people were blown away by it, but it started to calcify under Salesforce. It should never have been a PaaS; it should have been a multilayered cake of PaaS with various escape hatches to build out with Kubernetes or go multicloud, but that wasn’t what was to be.”

Today, Heroku is part of the broader Salesforce Platform of developer tools, but it remains a successful business in its own right, accounting for hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues and supporting a wide range of languages and thousands of developers who run applications on it. “Salesforce has made it more stable, scalable, and support new languages. The core idea of taking an app and pushing to the cloud without having to think about servers, with a beautiful developer experience, is the same today, and I know that because I am a customer,” cofounder Adam Wiggins said.