Interview with Eli Cohen
CEO, Helios - Cloud observability & traces.
What is Helios? Why did you build it?
Helios is a developer platform that helps you increase your development velocity when building cloud native applications. It started from my personal pain.
Before starting Helios, I was working for a fintech company and we were building a marketplace for all the big banks of the world. Billions of dollars were running through our system on a daily basis. The more services we deployed, the slower our dev velocity became—it was very frustrating. Eventually, I took some of the best engineers in my group and let them build the infrastructure that would allow us to increase our dev velocity, quality and productivity. And then I realized, “Okay. This is something that we need to do for everyone.” So I left to start building Helios, and these are exactly the challenges we focus on today.
Today, everyone is moving to the cloud. With this transition, organizations are breaking their monoliths into microservices or they’re starting their architecture with microservices and serverless. We see developers struggle within those architectures, so our goal is to help them increase their dev velocity. With Helios, the dev team can easily and quickly see a full view of all of their API inventory, reproduce failures, and automatically generate tests, from their local environment all the way to production. So essentially, we’re accelerating the R&D work by streamlining activities from troubleshooting and testing to design and collaboration.
We try to go beyond observability. We are taking observability and shifting it left towards the developer. Most of the traditional observability tools are focused on production monitoring, they’re focused on DevOps and SRE. We are focused on developers, on helping them own their services successfully even in full production. We are making distributed tracing data accessible and actionable. We’re helping teams leverage those traces, get insights from them, reproduce issues, and generate tests. We shorten the time it takes to troubleshoot applications from hours to minutes, and to test systems from days to less than a day.
What does a “day in the life” look like?
I’m the co-founder and CEO of Helios. So for me, my day mainly involves external meetings, speaking with prospects, speaking with customers, interviewing new potential candidates, syncing with our leaders about product, marketing, sales - it’s really a mixture. That’s really what I like about the job, that there is no typical day. Every day is different and I get to solve new problems and meet new people.
What is the team structure around Helios?
So besides me, we also have Ran - he is co-founder and CTO. We have actually known each other for almost 20 years - like many other Israeli entrepreneurs, we served together in the Israeli Defense Forces and after that, we studied together in university and then worked together in the software industry. When he came back from Silicon Valley last year, we decided to start Helios together. Other than that, we have Maya, who leads our product - she used to work with Ran previously and she’s a great product leader.
We also have Aviv, who is our dev advocate. So he’s in charge of all the interactions with potential customers, with doing all of our dev advocacy, community and stuff like that. And we have around seven developers from the best companies in Israel, people we know from our mutual past. A big part of the reason for our success thus far is because of the great team we assembled. It really feels like an elite team!
How did you first get into software development?
I studied computers in high school, and have loved them since. And then during my army days, I was exposed to the bigger picture of technology. After the army, I decided to study computer science and that’s when I started doing it professionally. I’ve been doing that for almost 15 years now, and I’m still super excited about it.
I’ve been in engineering positions, product positions, and really like to be hands-on. Obviously, today it’s not possible, but I always love to read about new tools. That’s also why I’m really a big fan of what you do at Console.
What is the most interesting development challenge you’ve faced working on Helios?
We’re handling many different things from the level of instrumenting code to building a very slick UI. The challenge is actually making this big machine work together. Every day, we get to handle very low level things, such as at the instrumentation level in Java, and then we have all the data in Elastic. It’s also big data challenges, scaling challenges, and making everything work really smoothly in React. We invest a lot of time in tying everything together in a very complex architecture, especially today when we have many customers scaling it and making it reliable for themselves.
What is the most interesting tech you are playing around with at the moment?
One of our challenges right now is doing auto-instrumentation on top of OpenTelemetry with Go, which is something very unique. There aren’t any other solutions like that on the market. We believe it will be a game changer for our customers. This is something that is very challenging because due to the nature of the language, doing auto-instrumentation with Go can be quite difficult. So working with OpenTelemetry is very interesting right now.
Describe your computer hardware setup
I use a MacBook Pro, 13-inch, the M1 from 2020 and I really like the wireless Apple keyboard. I’m a big fan of the Logitech MX 3—kind of old-fashioned. I’m addicted to AirPods and I have a Dell monitor (24 inch).
Describe your computer software setup
IDE: IntelliJ and Sublime
Source control: GitHub and Git.
Describe your desk setup
I have a standing desk here now, you can make it go up or down with the push of a button.
Daytime or nighttime? Night.
Tea or coffee? Tea.
Silence or music? White noise.
What non-tech activities do you like to do?
Hiking. I like hiking with my family. Just before COVID started, I went on a caravan trip in New Zealand with my wife and my daughter, which was great.
Find out more
Helios is a cloud observability and tracing platform for improving developer velocity. It was featured as an “interesting tool” in the Console newsletter on 29 Sep 2022. This interview was conducted on 20 Sep 2022.
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