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v0.36.6 / Operations Guide / Running Metabase on Heroku

Running Metabase on Heroku

Heroku is a great place to evaluate Metabase and take it for a quick spin with just a click of a button and a couple minutes of waiting time. If you decide to keep your Metabase running long term we recommend some upgrades as noted below to avoid limitations of the Heroku free tier.

Launching Metabase

Before doing anything you should make sure you have a Heroku account that you can access.

If you’ve got a Heroku account then all there is to do is follow this one-click deployment button

Deploy to Heroku

This will launch a Heroku deployment using a GitHub repository that Metabase maintains.

It should only take a few minutes for Metabase to start. You can check on the progress by viewing the logs at https://dashboard.heroku.com/apps/YOUR_APPLICATION_NAME/logs or using the Heroku command line tool with the heroku logs -t -a YOUR_APPLICATION_NAME command.

Upgrading beyond the Free tier

Heroku is very kind and offers a free tier to be used for very small/non-critical workloads which is great if you just want to evaluate Metabase and see what it looks like. If you like what you see and decide to use Metabase as an ongoing part of your analytics workflow we recommend these upgrades which are quite affordable and will allow you to fully utilize all of Metabase’s capabilities without running into annoying limitations.

  1. Upgrade your dyno to the Hobby tier or one of the professional Standard 1x/2x dynos. The most important reason for this is that your dyno will never sleep and that allows Metabase to run all of its background work such as sending Pulses, syncing metadata, etc, in a reliable fashion.

  2. Upgrade your Postgres database to the Basic package or for more peace of mind go for the Standard 0 package. The primary reason for this upgrade is to get more than the minimum number of database rows offered in the free tier (10k), which we’ve had some users exhaust within a week. You’ll also get better overall performance along with backups, which we think is worth it.

Known Limitations

  • Heroku’s 30 second timeouts on all web requests can cause a few issues if you happen to have longer running database queries. Most people don’t run into this but be aware that it’s possible.
  • When using the free tier, if you don’t access the application for a while Heroku will sleep your Metabase environment. This prevents things like Pulses and Metabase background tasks from running when scheduled and at times makes the app appear to be slow when really it’s just Heroku reloading your app. You can resolve this by upgrading to the hobby tier or higher.
  • Sometimes Metabase may run out of memory and you will see messages like Error R14 (Memory quota exceeded) in the Heroku logs. If this happens regularly we recommend upgrading to the standard-2x tier dyno.

Now that you’ve installed Metabase, it’s time to set it up and connect it to your database.

Troubleshooting

  • If your Metabase instance is getting stuck part way through the initialization process and only every shows roughly 30% completion on the loading progress.
    • The most likely culprit here is a stale database migrations lock that was not cleared. This can happen if for some reason Heroku kills your Metabase dyno at the wrong time during startup. To fix it: you can either clear the lock using the built-in release-locks command line function, or if needed you can login to your Metabase application database directly and delete the row in the DATABASECHANGELOGLOCK table. Then just restart Metabase.

Deploying New Versions of Metabase

We currently use a Heroku buildpack for deploying Metabase. The metabase-deploy repository is an app that relies on the buildpack and configures various properties for running Metabase on Heroku.

In order to upgrade to the latest version of Metabase on Heroku, you need to trigger a rebuild of your app. Typically this is done by pushing to the Heroku app’s Git repository, but because we create the app using a Heroku Button, you’ll need to link your app to our repo and push an empty commit.

Here’s each step:

  • Clone the metabase-deploy repo to your local machine:
git clone https://github.com/metabase/metabase-deploy.git  
cd metabase-deploy
  • Add a git remote with your Metabase setup:
git remote add heroku https://git.heroku.com/<YOUR-APP-NAME>.git
  • If you are upgrading from a version that is lower than 0.25, add the Metabase buildpack to your Heroku app:
heroku buildpacks:add https://github.com/metabase/metabase-buildpack
  • If there have been no new changes to the metabase-deploy repository since the last time you deployed Metabase, you will need to add an empty commit. This triggers Heroku to re-deploy the code, fetching the newest version of Metabase in the process.
git commit --allow-empty -m "empty commit"
git push heroku master
  • Wait for the deploy to finish

Testing New Versions using Heroku Pipelines

Heroku pipelines are a feature that allow you to share the same codebase across multiple Heroku apps and maintain a continuous delivery pipeline. You can use this feature to test new versions of Metabase before deploying them to production.

In order to do this, you would create two different Metabase apps on Heroku and then create a pipeline with one app in staging and the other in production.

Heroku Pipeline image

In order to trigger automatic deploys to your staging app, you will need to fork the metabase-deploy repository into your own GitHub user or organization and then enable GitHub Sync on that repository. To do this, connect the pipeline to your forked repository in the pipeline settings, then enable automatic deploys in the app you added to the staging environment.

Now, when you push to master on your forked metabase-deploy repository, the changes will automatically be deployed to your staging app! Once you’re happy that everything is OK, you can promote the staging app to production using the Heroku UI or CLI.

Similar to the instructions above, to deploy a new version you just need to push an empty commit and the build will pick up the new version.

git commit --allow-empty -m "Upgrade Metabase"
git push master

Database Syncs

You may want to ensure that your staging database is synced with production before you deploy a new version. Luckily with Heroku you can restore a backup from one app to another.

For example, assuming your production app is named awesome-metabase-prod, this command will create a backup:

heroku pg:backups:capture --app awesome-metabase-prod

Note the backup ID referenced in the above command and use that to restore the database to your staging app, awesome-metabase-staging.

heroku pg:backups:restore awesome-metabase-prod::b101 DATABASE_URL --app awesome-metabase-staging

This will restore backup ID b101 from your prod app to your staging app.

Once this is done, restart your staging app and begin testing.

Pinning Metabase versions

For whatever reason, should you want to pin Metabase to a specific version, you can append the version number to the buildpack URL (as long as that tag exists in the metabase-buildpack repository).

If you haven’t cloned the metabase-deploy repository, this can be done with the Heroku CLI:

heroku buildpacks:set --index 2 https://github.com/metabase/metabase-buildpack#0.34.1 \ 
  --app <YOUR-APP-NAME>

If you are using pipelines as shown above, you can modify the app.json file in your forked metabase-deploy repository to use a tagged buildpack URL for the Metabase buildpack. You can then commit and push that change and promote your app when ready.

  "buildpacks": [
    {
      "url": "heroku/jvm"
    },
    {
      "url": "https://github.com/metabase/metabase-buildpack#0.34.1"
    }
  ]