Does Digital Ocean App Platform Support Scale-to-zero Autoscaling?

Date: 2024-04-24 | create | tech | digital-ocean | app-platform | autoscaling | serverless-containers | cloud-hosting |

I build a lot of projects. Most of them get very little traffic but I build them anyway cause I enjoy it and like sharing them.

To make this sustainable I have found ways to host lots of projects cheaply - so people can see them without having to pay for them when no one is looking (which is most of the time).

My general approach to this has been to leverage serverless container cloud options that scale to zero. This allows me to build my apps like I normally would while only paying when people are actually using them. In fact this is how I've hosted this site for < $1 per month for the past several years.

This approach has enabled me to build and host the dozen or so experiments I build every year without racking up runaway cloud bills.

Recently I've been experimenting with hosting projects on Digital Ocean. In this post we'll explore whether Digital Ocean's App Platform supports autoscaling with scale-to-zero.

Scale-to-Zero Autoscaling

Both Autoscaling and Scale-to-zero are important cloud attributes for how I build and host projects. It is not useful to me to only have one - I need both for my Creations to be sustainable.

  • Scale-to-zero - Allows my apps / compute to go to zero when no one is using them (which for me is most of the time). This allows me to only pay for what I need and keep the rest in savings.
  • Autoscaling - Allows my apps to sleep / wake up by themselves. This makes scale-to-zero operationally feasible for me across my dozens of projects.

Does Digital Ocean App Platform support Scale-to-Zero Autoscaling?

Finding this answer was kind of hard - it's not directly mentioned in any official docs or correspondence. To figure this out I went into the dashboard for one of my projects currently running on App Platform (TravelMap) and tried to setup autoscaling and scale-to-zero.

Here's what I found:

Digital Ocean - Basic vs Pro Autoscaling

Only Pro accounts can use autoscaling

Digital Ocean - Instance Autoscaling limits

Autoscaling only available on instance sizes costing >= $75 per month

Digital Ocean - Autoscaling minimum containers

Autoscale minimum is 1 active container

So all in all:

  • Autoscaling exists for Pro deployments
  • Autoscaling is only available for large instances (those costing >= $75 per month)
  • Scale-to-zero is not possible as minimum container is 1


I still like Digital Ocean's App Platform - they have great ergonomics and if you're running apps that get constant traffic then it can be far cheaper than the alternatives. But it doesn't quite do what I need - it doesn't offer scale-to-zero autoscaling.

For these reasons I'll probably be going back to Google Cloud Run and searching for other alternatives for my side projects.

Q: How are you hosting your apps cheaply at scale?

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