Hieda: One to Remember

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of a new initiative within the Cronos Groep: Hieda! As a joint venture between Monin and FlowFactor, Hieda uses the expertise of both companies to provide services for open-source data infrastructures. We sat down with managing partners and co-founders Bart Callens and Luc Robberechts for an interview about what inspired Hieda’s creation, where its name comes from, and what sets it apart.

Hi gentlemen! Could you begin by introducing yourselves?

Bart: Sure! Before I worked at FlowFactor, I was a system engineer and worked in managed services for ten years. At FlowFactor, I was a DevOps engineer for clients using the more traditional products like WebSphere and led its managed services team. 

I really enjoyed this responsibility, but I wanted to have something of my own. FlowFactor’s management noted my interest in databases and desire for more ownership during performance reviews. When they launched a joint venture last April and needed a managing partner, I was lucky enough to be the one they thought of.

Luc: I received the same request. However, I was called in for a meeting with one of the managing partners of Monin with no context, so I have to admit I was a bit worried at first (laughs). I worked as an Oracle database administrator (DBA), so I have plenty of technical experience. Besides the technical side, I took an interest in managed services. I signalled to management that we needed to think further than traditional providers like Oracle.

Since all things open-source ended up on my desk, I was called into that fateful meeting back in April. I supported the idea, and I looked forward to fulfilling a role as a managing partner myself. I had one condition, however: I wanted to handle the technical and operational side of things. As soon as I knew Bart would be my co-manager for the administrative and business side, I was convinced.

Sounds like you are a great fit! You hinted at open-source and managed services already. Could you explain how those led to the launch of Hieda?

Luc: Well, both of us noticed an evolution on two fronts. On the one hand, customers started paying more attention to their data infrastructures. On the other, we noted a shift toward open-source solutions. At Monin, the requests started piling in as we gained awareness within the Cronos Groep. A significant portion of these requests mentioned managed services and open-source technologies like PostgreSQL and MySQL.

Bart: I can definitely confirm Luc’s statement on the increase in awareness. Especially in the larger enterprises, licensing costs are under increasingly close scrutiny. Do they really need something like an Oracle, or are they better off with an open-source alternative? 

At FlowFactor, our clients typically use modern applications instead of legacy systems. Database problems arise as soon as they hit production — and by then, they are a lot more pricey to fix. Most FlowFactor clients also do not want to manage their data infrastructures themselves. So, on our end, we mainly noticed an increased demand for managed services.

We heeded these calls and combined the requests for open-source data infrastructures and managed services. By combining the expertise of Monin and FlowFactor in a contract, our companies previously found a good fit.

As a joint venture, Hieda solidifies that relationship with an explicit focus and dedicated team.

Sounds like the decision was pretty clear-cut. The name is less obvious though — where does it come from exactly?

Bart: Glad you asked! I got the name from Hieda no Are, a Japanese poet that lived during the late 7th and early 8th century. The emperor tasked her with visiting all noble houses and collecting their stories. She wrote all of them down in the so-called Kojiki, Japan’s first official story bundle. 

The emperor specifically chose her for this task because of her legendary memory. It was said that she could memorise information upon hearing it just once and recite it perfectly afterwards. The link with robust databases is probably obvious, but we also wanted to stress our competence. Our clients only need to tell us once, and we will remember it for the rest of our partnership. 

Fun fact: we originally happened on the name Hieda because of my eldest daughter. She is really into manga and anime, parts of Japanese culture. One of her favourite series, Touhou, involves the Hieda family, some of whose children have the gift of inherited knowledge and instant recollection. When she suggested the name, we did some more research and discovered our poet.

That’s a wonderful find! Now that your name is out there, what should customers contact the modern-day Hieda for?

Luc: There are several reasons. We primarily handle migrations of commercial products (Oracle, SQL Server) to open-source alternatives (MySQL, PostgreSQL). We also offer managed services, meaning we take care of the entire environment. This includes the set-up (if required), monitoring uptime, and offering 24/7 support. Besides those long-term engagements, we are also available for short-term projects .

Bart: We want to help companies that feel stuck with one of the big vendors because of licensing costs and upgrade policies. Like I’ve said, we also target developers (SaaS in particular) that are not interested in maintaining a database themselves. By taking that load off of their shoulders, we let those customers focus on their core business. 

I also mentioned helping start- or scale-ups with data infrastructures that no longer suffice. Turning a single-node database into a high-available one is an excellent example. We obviously don’t limit ourselves to the performance aspect: we can also upgrade the security and offer health checks. Is the database performing as intended? Is it configured well? Are there any queries that can be optimised? These are the kinds of questions we can answer for our clients.

What is important to you? What is Hieda’s vision of services for data infrastructures?

Luc: First and foremost, we want to make a difference with our service. We start a dialog with the customer and check their specific needs. Our philosophy is to deliver high-quality data infrastructures that are safe and up to the latest and highest standards. When we’re done, they will be faster, documented, reproducible, and more reliable because they are less prone to human errors.

By choosing open-source, we ensure our clients will no longer have to depend on market leaders who use their position to charge higher prices while delivering lesser services. As a company, choosing open-source means you are in the driver’s seat when it comes to your data and its governance.

Bart: Yes, we definitely want companies to reflect on the importance of their data and its availability. Despite the general heightened awareness, many of them still severely underestimate the impact on their business. For some, their current data infrastructure does not meet their requirements. However, a lot of companies also simply pay too much because they chose a default solution with the most popular vendor. We want to provide optimisations for both ends of that spectrum, and everyone in between.

That is why we pay a lot of attention to future-proofing our data infrastructures. Because they are flexible and tailor-made, the configuration of their original database will no longer limit an organisation’s growth. At Hieda, we dedicate ourselves to finding the best possible solution for our clients and supporting them the entire way, so they can finally make the most of their data — and continue to do so.

Did Hieda’s origin story and approach to managed services pique your interest? Be sure to contact them to discuss the possibilities.

February 17, 2022
Jessica Verlinden

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