Zabbix Review

A complete solution that doesn't cost anything, does what I need it to do, and has easy-to-use templates and very good scalability

What is our primary use case?

I've designed and built a high-available solution with Zabbix version 5. I introduced and deployed Zabbix in my current company, and it ended up becoming a production service within the company.

What is most valuable?

I like being able to use proxy servers for different locations. The agents are pretty cool. They're easy to roll out. 

The standard out-of-the-box templates are also pretty easy to use. The integration with other learning products is also good. I have, in the past, used Slack, but we've integrated it with Microsoft Teams. We also use it for SMS with a service called Redcoat. It is very flexible.

It does what I need it to do, and my manager is very happy because it doesn't cost anything. We are nearing 4,000 hosts inside Zabbix, and we've got another 6,000 access points to add to it. We've thrown everything at it, and it has managed to keep going. I am very impressed with the tool, and I'd shake their hand very hard if I got to say the compliments to the Zabbix team. They keep improving it and doing refreshes, which is one good thing about it. There is also online information as well as books that you can purchase if you're willing to read enough. There is a lot to pick up, but it is a pretty complete solution.

What needs improvement?

The APM monitoring has room for improvement, although I hear that the new 5.2 version has some improvements in that area, and I'd like to give that a go. I would like to see a few more templates out there for different styles of monitoring. I use the Grafana interface for reporting. 

I would also like it to have an out-of-the-box ability to email reports. You can create reports, but to be able to email those reports would be really helpful. I've got users who are not interested in logging in and generating a report. They want it all pre-canned and sent to an email address. It would also be really handy if we could pin certain reports up onto platforms such as Teams or SharePoint.

A GUI for the proxy server would be cool to have for debugging purposes and for the support teams to have a look at, but I don't know whether that's really feasible to do. I get enough from the log files themselves.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using this solution for probably over five years. I started using it from version 3. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Zabbix is very stable. We ran into a few performance issues in the early proof of concept days. The database running on normal hard drives impacted the ability to process all items in a timely manner, and when I moved to SSDs, those issues went away.

For all implementations, the sizing calculator needs to be used to ensure the correct size of the database. Based on the number of hosts and items the performance of the database needs to be factored in.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We've managed to scale up recently from about 150,000 items. We're now on to about 380,000 items. We're not really seeing any major flaws or issues in that environment. It is pretty good.

How are customer service and technical support?

Many years ago, when I worked for a different company, I had access to their support, and they were very good. They were very knowledgeable. I was working on versions 3 and 4. I also got training from them. They did a five-day training course for us. 

I am pushing my company at the moment to try and get an enterprise license so that we can get some on-site support and some guidance to make sure that we're deploying within recommendations and the way they would do it. At the moment, they're relying on me to get it up and running and make it work, but I'd love to have some support, and I know they're very good. It is an education company, and I am keen to get more people in front of it. There'll be more opportunities within the university itself from what we've already done, but that's a work in progress.

How was the initial setup?

I've done many setups. They're all pretty easy to do. There are lots of different flavors of it. I've used Apache and Nginx. MySQL and PostgresSQL are the two databases I've tried out. I've done different versions. 

At the moment, my system runs on Postgres. We're looking to implement TimescaleDB on that, and we've got an Ingenex front-end that we use. It is a little bit more solid than the Apache version, and it is very flexible. You choose what you want and then you roll with it.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

My manager is very happy because it doesn't cost anything.

What other advice do I have?

I would definitely recommend it. It is very good for what I want it to do. I would recommend getting your Linux and databases teams involved very early on in the journey, and when you are deploying, make sure that you are targeting the more important applications in your portfolio. Don't just try and deploy it on everything straight off the bat. Try and pick some critical applications to look at and build the value in the product in the initial phase, and that usually gets people interested in the application and moving forward. That would be my advice to people. One of my drawbacks was that I waited a bit too long, and when I brought them on board, I had already built most of the environment myself. I should have got them involved a lot earlier and sooner. It is not really a bad thing, but you can't do everything yourself, so try and get people on board.

I would rate Zabbix a nine out of ten. I am pretty biased. I really enjoy using Zabbix, and I feel it does what I need it to do. It definitely ticked the boxes. In my current role and in three years, I've gone from demoing Zabbix, doing a proof of concept, and integrating it with a few things to the boss turning around and saying, "Right, make it production." I have to admit that everybody that has come into contact with it or I've presented it to has been very pleased with the results. It has been a very good fit. I can only compliment the tool. 

I am not giving it ten because it's not perfect. I don't think any monitoring tool is absolutely a hundred percent perfect. There is always room for improvement, but this has to be one of the better ones. I know what I'm doing, and I could do more if I had support from them, but what you can do with the tool is very good as compared to other tools that I've tried out in the past, such as Nagios. With Nagios, if you really want the full functionality, you have to pay for it. Here, they give you that functionality. You've just got to know how to use it. It is very clever, and it has definitely won me over as a tool. Thanks to deploying and using Zabbix, I have learned a lot of stuff around Zabbix as well. I have learned a lot about different tools such as Linux,  MySQL, and Postgres that are needed to run the service. It has been good. I have enjoyed it a lot.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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