INTERVIEW: On Zabbix and the road towards it, with certified expert Alois Zadražil

The Zabbix monitoring system from the Latvian company of the same name has built up quite a reputation among ICZ Group customers and those of other companies over the past four years and has also become popular among certain employees for use at home. We talk to Alois Zadražil, now holder of the highest-level of certification – Zabbix Certified Expert – and its technical guarantor at the ICZ Group, about its history at the company.

Mr. Zadražil, 1 September 2019 marked your 20th anniversary of working at the company. What position were you in all those years ago and what did your work involve?

I joined the company in the position of system specialist for Novell NetWare systems. If you allow me to exaggerate a little, my work was “everything that needed to be done”.

What sort of technology did you use in your work and which certificates did you have?

After moving away from Novell technology, I began concentrating on Microsoft products, mainly in the areas of servers and Active Directory. I earned the relevant technical certificates in these areas too.

What is your position now, what are your responsibilities and in which areas do you hold certificates?

I now work as Head of the Technical Department and I am responsible for delegated administration contracts, in particular for the Ministry of Justice. I still hold valid certificates in the sphere of Microsoft servers and now in the Zabbix open source monitoring system.

Latvian company Zabbix has been a partner to S.ICZ a.s. since 2015 and you are also technical guarantor of its product. When and where did you first come across the solution?

With the arrival of delegated administration projects, we had to deal with monitoring problems for customers.  I was looking for a suitable replacement for Nagios in 2010, one that would meet all the requirements, and I came across Zabbix.

Do you remember the first project in which Zabbix was used? To what extent was it used?

The first “live” application was at Justiční areál Na Míčánkách in Prague, where the system works to this day and is continually being updated. There it monitors the infrastructure, hardware and status of the systems and applications of the organisation. It sends notification of error status to the local administrators and to us at S.ICZ, as the suppliers of delegated administration.

What sort of customers and what sort of projects is the solution used for at present?

The Zabbix monitoring system is operated at all customers of the Security Section, with a few minor exceptions. Essentially, everywhere where we have delegated administration, meaning the Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic, the Prison Service of the Czech Republic and the Czech Telecommunication Office. It is also applied in certain projects outside our section, specifically at the General Health Insurance Company and the Ministry of Transport of the Czech Republic – Eliška Central Register of Drivers. The implementation of Zabbix also expands on intersectional cooperation within the ICZ Group (Security, Public Administration, Infrastructure). Consultation has been carried out with colleagues from the Healthcare Section and ALES in Slovakia. Some of us even use the functions of Zabbix at home.

Zabbix organises a conference in Riga every year, at which it introduces the latest version and innovations. You attended the event for the first time in 2015. What was your impression and what did you take from the conference?

I came back from the first conference enthused. Zabbix only had around 30 employees at that time, but a highly skilled technical team under the guidance of company founder Alexei Vladishev. The topics presented were very thought-provoking and made a significant contribution to the development of technology in our contracts.

You were at the event again in October 2019. Do you see a difference in the size or level of expertise of the event?

Around 500 people from 45 countries of the world attended the conference this year, around double the number as in 2015. This matches the growth of Zabbix as a company in general, which now has around 70 employees. The most inspiring of the topics presented this time was the one that introduced innovations and improvements to the current version 4.4.

You earned the first level of Zabbix certification in February 2016, Zabbix Certified Specialist (ZCS), moving up to Zabbix Certified Professional (ZCP) in May 2017 and in October 2019 you took the training and passed the test for the highest-level certification, Zabbix Certified Expert (ZCE). What did earning each of the individual certificates involve?

The first two levels of certification involve a standard exam, in the form of an electronic test. This was preceded by three days of training in the case of ZCS and two days of intensive training for ZCP. By contrast, the exam for Zabbix Certified Expert is practical, when, after three days of practical training, the candidate is given access to a broken Zabbix server and has to successfully solve a minimum of 3 out of 5 problems within two hours. I consider this final test to have been the most demanding of them all. Four of the eight candidates passed, which the examiners considered to be a great success.

Thank you for your time, congratulations on earning the certificate and all the best in your working and personal life!