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heroku databases node

Run a Node PostgreSQL App on Heroku

Posted on .

I really like the pg
PostgreSQL library by Brian Carlson, and considering the amount of
attention we've given to Redis and MongoDB on DailyJS I thought it was
time to give relational databases some coverage again.

Heroku is one of many services that supports Node. This tutorial will
demonstrate how easy it is to get a simple
Express and pg app running.

This tutorial is based on the following documentation:

The files for this tutorial can be found here: alexyoung /

Getting Started

An account at Heroku is required first. Next,
install the Heroku client:

Once that's installed, try typing heroku help in a terminal
to see what the command-client client can do. Heroku obviously realised
that us developers prefer using the command-line to a GUI -- although
some basic management features are available through Heroku's web
interface, almost everything is handled from the command-line tool.

Authentication is requried before progressing:

heroku login

I had to tell Heroku about my public SSH key too:

heroku keys:add ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub

Module Installation

Heroku wisely supports npm, so our app begins with a

  "name": "dailyjs-heroku-postgres"
, "version": "0.0.1"
, "dependencies": {
    "express": "2.4.5"
  , "pg": "0.5.7"

PostgreSQL Setup

Heroku uses environmental variables to supply database connection
parameters. This is simply process.env.DATABASE_URL for
PostgreSQL. Connecting to the database is as simple as this:

var pg = require('pg').native
  , connectionString = process.env.DATABASE_URL || 'postgres://localhost:5432/dailyjs'
  , client
  , query;

client = new pg.Client(connectionString);
query = client.query('SELECT * FROM mytable');
query.on('end', function() { client.end(); });

Notice how pg uses events -- I've called
client.end() so this script will exit gracefully when it's
finished. If you've got PostgreSQL installed locally you could try
experimenting with this script.


There's a few ways to change the database schema on Heroku. I've made a
little schema creation script:

var pg = require('pg').native
  , connectionString = process.env.DATABASE_URL || 'postgres://localhost:5432/dailyjs'
  , client
  , query;

client = new pg.Client(connectionString);
query = client.query('CREATE TABLE visits (date date)');
query.on('end', function() { client.end(); });

I'll explain how to run this on Heroku later.

Another option would be to use a library like
node-migrate by TJ Holowaychuk. I haven't actually used this before, but it seems like a
sensible way to keep local schemas in sync as developers work on a

Typing heroku help pg shows the commands available for
PostgreSQL, and this includes heroku pg:psql which can be
used to open a remote connection to a dedicated database. This won't
be allowed for a shared database, but could be used to modify the

Example App

Now we've got a package.json, we just need an app to run.
Create a file called web.js that starts like this:

var express = require('express')
  , app = express.createServer(express.logger())
  , pg = require('pg').native
  , connectionString = process.env.DATABASE_URL || 'postgres://localhost:5432/dailyjs'
  , start = new Date()
  , port = process.env.PORT || 3000
  , client;

Notice how I use Heroku's environmental variable for the database
connection string and server port, or defaults for development purposes.

Now we can add the code required to connect to the database:

client = new pg.Client(connectionString);

A single Express route should suffice for this tutorial:

app.get('/', function(req, res) {
  var date = new Date();

  client.query('INSERT INTO visits(date) VALUES($1)', [date]);

  query = client.query('SELECT COUNT(date) AS count FROM visits WHERE date = $1', [date]);
  query.on('row', function(result) {

    if (!result) {
      return res.send('No data found');
    } else {
      res.send('Visits today: ' + result.count);

And we better start the app too:

app.listen(port, function() {
  console.log('Listening on:', port);


The last thing we need is a file that tells Heroku what our main script
is called. Create a file called Procfile:

web: node web.js


Heroku uses Git for deployment, so set up a repo:

git init
git add .
git commit -m 'First commit'

Then run this command which creates a remote app on the service with a
random name:

heroku create --stack cedar

It'll give you the URL, but your app isn't quite ready yet.

Now push the repo to make the magic happen:

git push heroku master

And tell Heroku you want to use a database:

heroku addons:add shared-database

And finally... run the schema creation script:

heroku run node schema.js

Hopefully you now have a little Node and PostgreSQL app running on

If anything went wrong, Heroku's
is excellent, and you can
download my sample source here: alexyoung /


nodejs heroku

Heroku Node Update

Posted on .

I've been using Node on
Heroku to test the basics. Here's what you need to know:

  • The workflow is exactly the same as with Ruby apps
  • There's no package management support -- libraries must be stored inside your Git repository
  • There's a 30 second connection timeout. There's some concern that this might impact apps that rely on WebSockets

The Heroku team have been proactive at answering questions and guiding
people through the process of installing and managing Node apps -- if
enough people want the 30 second limit dropped it sounds like Heroku
might simply adapt their architecture to suit our requirements (given


The beta is currently closed, but there are apps out there that
demonstrate what real Heroku Node apps look like:

  • heroku-express is an example app that uses a Rake task to manage importing Express into your repository
  • SousaBall uses postgres

About Heroku

If you haven't used Heroku before, it's a hosting service based around
Git. That means they host a Git repository that automatically deploys
when you git push to it. A typical session looks like this:

\$ git commit -m 'Bug fixes to close #31, #29'\ \$ git push heroku master

Counting objects: 267, done.\
Delta compression using up to 2 threads.\
Compressing objects: 100% (176/176), done.\
Writing objects: 100% (262/262), 122.67 KiB, done.\
Total 262 (delta 11), reused 0 (delta 0)