Heroku to BigQuery

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Heroku and load it into Google BigQuery. (If this manual process sounds onerous, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)

What is Heroku?

Heroku is a cloud platform that lets companies build, deploy, monitor, and scale apps.

What is Google BigQuery?

Google BigQuery is a data warehouse that delivers super-fast results from SQL queries, which it accomplishes using a powerful engine dubbed Dremel. With BigQuery, there's no spinning up (and down) clusters of machines as you work with your data. With that said, it's clear why some claim that BigQuery prioritizes querying over administration. It's super fast, and that's the reason why most folks use it.

Getting data out of Heroku

You can extract the data you want from Heroku's servers using the Heroku API. A common use case for extracting Heroku data is retrieving server logs or other event logs. There are some API endpoints related to logs, as well as command-line tools like the logs command that let you retrieve this data.

Sample Heroku data

Here's an example set of commands and responses you might see when interacting with the logs command-line tool.

$ heroku logs --ps router
2012-02-07T09:43:06.123456+00:00 heroku[router]: at=info method=GET path="/stylesheets/dev-center/library.css" host=devcenter.heroku.com fwd="" dyno=web.5 connect=1ms service=18ms status=200 bytes=13
2012-02-07T09:43:06.123456+00:00 heroku[router]: at=info method=GET path="/articles/bundler" host=devcenter.heroku.com fwd="" dyno=web.6 connect=1ms service=18ms status=200 bytes=20375

$ heroku logs --source app
2012-02-07T09:45:47.123456+00:00 app[web.1]: Rendered shared/_search.html.erb (1.0ms)
2012-02-07T09:45:47.123456+00:00 app[web.1]: Completed 200 OK in 83ms (Views: 48.7ms | ActiveRecord: 32.2ms)
2012-02-07T09:45:47.123456+00:00 app[worker.1]: [Worker(host:465cf64e-61c8-46d3-b480-362bfd4ecff9 pid:1)] 1 jobs processed at 23.0330 j/s, 0 failed ...
2012-02-07T09:46:01.123456+00:00 app[web.6]: Started GET "/articles/buildpacks" for at 2012-02-07 09:46:01 +0000

$ heroku logs --source app --ps worker
2012-02-07T09:47:59.123456+00:00 app[worker.1]: [Worker(host:260cf64e-61c8-46d3-b480-362bfd4ecff9 pid:1)] Article#record_view_without_delay completed after 0.0221
2012-02-07T09:47:59.123456+00:00 app[worker.1]: [Worker(host:260cf64e-61c8-46d3-b480-362bfd4ecff9 pid:1)] 5 jobs processed at 31.6842 j/s, 0 failed ...

Preparing Heroku data

This part could be the trickiest: you need to map the data that comes out of each Heroku API endpoint or log extraction into a schema that can be inserted into your destination database. This means that, for each value in the response, you need to identify a predefined datatype (i.e. INTEGER, DATETIME, etc.) and build a table that can receive them. Depending on your log files, you may also opt to break those up into raw logs and more meaningful metadata or log portions.

The Heroku API documentation can give you a good sense of what fields will be provided by each endpoint, along with their corresponding datatypes.

Loading data into Google BigQuery

Google Cloud Platform offers a helpful guide for loading data into BigQuery. You can use the bq command-line tool, and in particular the bq load command, to upload files to your datasets, adding schema and data type information along the way. You can find the syntax in the Quickstart guide for bq. Iterate through this process as many times as it takes to load all of your tables into BigQuery.

Keeping Heroku data up to date

At this point you've coded up a script or written a program to get the data you want and successfully moved it into your data warehouse. But how will you load new or updated data? It's not a good idea to replicate all of your data each time you have updated records. That process would be painfully slow and resource-intensive.

Instead, identify key fields that your script can use to bookmark its progression through the data and use to pick up where it left off as it looks for updated data. Auto-incrementing fields such as updated_at or created_at work best for this. When you've built in this functionality, you can set up your script as a cron job or continuous loop to get new data as it appears in Heroku.

And remember, as with any code, once you write it, you have to maintain it. If Heroku modifies its API, or the API sends a field with a datatype your code doesn't recognize, you may have to modify the script. If your users want slightly different information, you definitely will have to.

Other data warehouse options

BigQuery is great, but sometimes you need to optimize for different things when you're choosing a data warehouse. Some folks choose to go with Amazon Redshift, PostgreSQL, or Snowflake, which are RDBMSes that use similar SQL syntax, or Panoply, which works with Redshift instances. If you're interested in seeing the relevant steps for loading data into one of these platforms, check out To Redshift, To Postgres, To Snowflake, and To Panoply.

Easier and faster alternatives

If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t be alarmed. If you have all the skills necessary to go through this process, chances are building and maintaining a script like this isn’t a very high-leverage use of your time.

Thankfully, products like Stitch were built to solve this problem automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Heroku data via the API, structuring it in a way that is optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your Google BigQuery data warehouse.