by harvard-vpal

GitHub Readme.md

Heroku buildpack: R

This is a Heroku buildpack for applications which use R for statistical computing and CRAN for R packages.

The master branch of this repository contains the canonical version of the buildpack for use by IQSS/VPAL-R.


To use this version, the buildpack URL is https://github.com/harvard-vpal/heroku-buildpack-r.

The buildpack will detect your app makes use of R if it has a run.R file in the root directory.

Installing R Packages

The buildpack requires you are using Packrat to lock down package dependencies. You must run packrat::snapshot() before making your first push to Heroku. If you modify the snapshot by adding, removing, or changing a package, you must clear the Heroku build cache before redeploying (see Caching below).

Installing Binary Dependencies

If the R packages have binary dependencies, they can be specified by providing an Aptfile in your repository's root that contains the Ubuntu package names to install.

For instance, Tidyverse packages need libxml2-dev and RPostgreSQL needs libpq-dev. Examine the log of a failed git push heroku command for names of other Ubuntu/Debian dependencies your R packages might need.

R Console

You can run the R console application as follows:

$ heroku run R ...

Type q() to exit the console when you are finished. You can run the Rscript utility as follows:

$ heroku run Rscript ...

Note that the Heroku slug has an ephemeral file system and is effectively read-only, so any changes you make during the session will be discarded.

Shiny Applications

See apache-shiny-demo for an example Shiny app that uses this buildpack and heroku-buildpack-apache to enable multiple, load-balanced R processes.

Scheduling a Recurring Job

You can use the Heroku scheduler to schedule a recurring R process.

An example command for the scheduler, to run prog.r, would be R -f /app/prog.r --gui-none --no-save.

Technical Details

R Versions

The buildpack uses R 3.4.3 by default, however it is possible to use a different version if required. This is done by providing a .r-version file in the root directory, which contains the R version to use.

The following R versions are provide:

  • 3.3.3
  • 3.4.0
  • 3.4.1
  • 3.4.2
  • 3.4.3

Buildpack Versions

To reference a specific version of the buildpack, add the Git branch or tag name to the end of the build pack URL when creating or configuring your Heroku application.

E.g. Replace branch_or_tag_name with the desired branch or tag name:

$ heroku create --stack heroku-18 \
    --buildpack https://github.com/harvard-vpal/heroku-buildpack-r.git#branch_or_tag_name

Buildpack Binaries

The binaries used by the buildpack are hosted on AWS S3 at https://heroku-r-buildpack.s3.amazonaws.com.

See the heroku-buildpack-r-build repository for building the R binaries yourself.

Process Types

The buildpack includes the following default process types:

  • console: Executes bash in the chroot context, if needed for debugging.
  • web: Executes run.R to run Shiny in the chroot context

The R and Rscript executables are available like any other executable, via the heroku run command.


To improve the time it takes to deploy, the buildpack caches the R binaries, any additional binaries installed using the Aptfile and the compiled package binaries. If you need to purge the cache, it is possible by using heroku-repo CLI plugin.

To install the plugin run:

heroku plugins:install heroku-repo

To purge the buildpack cache, run the following command from your application's source code directory:

heroku repo:purge_cache -a your-app-name

See the purge-cache documentation for more information.

Multiple Buildpacks

This buildpack can be used in conjunction with other supported language stacks on Heroku by using multiple buildpacks. See Using Multiple Buildpacks for an App.

See the ruby application which shows how to use R together with a Ruby Sinatra web application and the rinruby gem.

CRAN Mirror Override

It is possible to override the default CRAN mirror used, by providing the URL via the CRAN_MIRROR environment variable.

E.g. Override the URL by setting the variable as follows. Note: There is no trailing "slash" in the URL.

heroku config:set CRAN_MIRROR=https://cloud.r-project.org

Check the CRAN mirror status page to ensure the mirror is available.


Due to the size of the R runtime, the slug size on Heroku, without any additional packages or program code, is approximately 150Mb. If additional R packages are installed then the slug size will increase.



MIT License. Copyright (c) 2013 Chris Stefano. See MIT_LICENSE for details.