Lightning talks and Q&A at the Zabbix Conference 2016

We covered the main talks during day one and day two of the Zabbix Conference 2016, but there were a few more things that happened in the conference hall at the end of the second day. After the main talks were over, in 5-minute long lightning talks various topics were introduced and briefly covered.

Burning duck / Ahiruyaki

Afterwards, the participants had a chance to ask questions to the Zabbix team. While there is a lot of talking going on off-the-record (conference participants catching a developer, separate sessions for Zabbix partners etc), this was a chance both to raise a topic to be heard by a bigger audience, and find out something if you had not managed to grab a Zabbix team member before.

Lightning talks

Finishing off the second day was a quick session of 5-minute long lightning talks. Lightning talks is a fairly recent addition to the Zabbix conferences, this being the second time of appearance. There were five talks in total:

  • Vladimir Ulogov, Zabbix team member, presented a Zabbix proxy simulator that allows to stress-test Zabbix. Vladimir already had a project of a Zabbix agent simulator that allows to easily feed prepared or random data to Zabbix, but it was lmited to a few item types and did not scale that well for a larger amount of hosts. A new project creates a proxy simulator. Still work-in-progress, the current code can be found on Github
  • Rafael Martinez Guerrero returned to the stage and provided more information on a Zabbix API using tools at work in the University of Oslo – Zabbix-cli. This tool supports interactive and non-interactive mode, and allows to manage various Zabbix entities. While there have been many such tools created over the years, it’s worth mentioning the Zabbix gnomes – both Zabbix-cli and Zabbix gnomes are commandline tools to manage Zabbix configuration via the API, and both are written in Python. It remains to be seen whether they will continue separate development or see some sort of a merger
  • Inaba Kazuhiko expanded on this last year’s talk about Ahiruyaki. It is fairly hard, almost impossible, to explain. Citing Kaz:

Ahiruyaki is a word that means ‘messages’, but also ‘burned duck’ in Japanese… Ahiru means ‘duck’ and ‘male’ in Japanese, and yaki means ‘burned’

  • This has become sort of an in-joke at the Zabbix conference, and it might be impossible to understand it from online sources – even the video recording of his last year’s talk on the same topic won’t do justice, as the audience feedback is missing. Come to the next Zabbix conference and we will try to explain it in person
  • Then it was my turn, and I tried to cover as much as possible about Zabbix logfiles – configuration parameters and how they changed in Zabbix 3.0, log levels and changing them for various amount of debugging information and a few more topics
  • Lightning talks were concluded by Dimitri Bellini, who presented PlanetMon – a free, simple “monitoring as a service” project. Of course, it’s Zabbix-based. At least that’s my understanding of it, the website is still Italian-only 😉

If you are reading this and thinking that you couldn’t pull off a full-time talk… apply for a lightning talk next year!

Questions and answers

Some questions were in the usual suspect areas – future plans for Zabbix, including release schedule and features, as well as some operational issues with Zabbix infrastructure. Zabbix development is partially driven by user financed features, thus the direction could slightly change. As for the operational issues, Zabbix team promised to solve them all, and it is now up to the interested parties to verify that.

A recurring topic at the conference Q&A sessions is the level of openness of the Zabbix development process, the project itself and community involvement. This is an interesting topic that deserves its own post, but the short version is that the Zabbix team historically has not been keen on integrating community contributions (patches), and development happens only by . There are some good reasons for this that were mentioned in response:

  • the patches often are not of an adequate quality, requiring significant amount of work or a complete rework
  • the patches often solve the immediate problem of the author, but do not cover other areas, like an agent feature only working on a single platform, or a frontend change only working with a specific PHP version
  • even if the patch doesn’t have such issues, it still takes time to review it

On the other hand, community members expressed disappointment about Zabbix not being more upfront about the small likelihood of a patch to be accepted, and no community engagement in other areas, including documentation.

Zabbix team hinted at loadable modules and more modular frontend being steps towards making Zabbix development more accessible, but that would still keep Zabbix itself off-limits, and carries a large possibility of increasing fragmentation, causing compatibility issues and making Zabbix harder to deploy and use. All the problems we bashed a moment ago regarding other solutions and praised the integrated feel of Zabbix…

But that is indeed a large topic that deserves more detailed posts here later 🙂

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