Meet an ISC Engineer - Ondřej Surý!

Ondřej Surý of ISC

Each quarter we like to profile one of our engineers, to acquaint our customers and users with some of the people they may interact with as they use our software.

We’ve already written profiles of some of our other engineers, but this time we thought it might be nice to go to the top of the BIND pyramid and introduce you to Ondřej Surý, ISC’s Director of DNS Engineering. He leads the team of software engineers working on BIND 9, in tandem with the BIND 9 quality assurance group.

Since starting at ISC in September 2017, Ondřej and his engineering team have produced more than 200 incremental releases in all the branches of BIND 9. Under Ondřej’s leadership, the project has become much more transparent, moving to an open repository. The release process has also changed dramatically: we now do regular monthly development snapshots, whereas previously we sometimes spent more than a year working on a new branch before exposing it to users. Ondřej and his team have refactored huge parts of the BIND code, making named both smaller and faster, and introduced a slew of ISC-maintained packages for easier deployment. At the same time, he has modernized and expanded ISC’s BIND 9 QA efforts, adding regular fuzzing, performance testing, and numerous pre-commit quality checks. Ondřej enjoys knowing that the software is used around the world: “I am certain that my work is being used every day at multiple places, be it my DNS work my Debian packaging work (of which the PHP packaging is the most prominent), or my IETF standards work.”

He believes strongly in the value of open source: “Working on open source and free software is a form of activism. You can’t be an open source hacker and be indifferent; after all, your work changes people’s lives for the better.” He adds, “I’ve been an open source advocate for more than half of my life. In my 25-year-long career, I’ve only briefly worked on proprietary products; it was only slightly more fulfilling than a gig at a brewery where I made money by putting empty bottles into boxes.” What Ondřej likes about open source is “the transparency and the obligation to make things better: with open source software you make a commitment to improving the software for everyone.”

Before joining ISC, Ondřej worked for CZ.NIC, the Czech domain registry. He founded CZ.NIC Labs, where Knot DNS and Knot Resolver came into existence under his supervision, leading to some friendly competition with BIND 9. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology, which has surely come in handy throughout his vast experience in system administration, system programming, software engineering, and engineering management.

Ondřej truly appreciates his colleagues here at ISC: “I’ve learned so much new stuff because of them.” He also values ISC’s corporate culture, saying “I like the freedom I have here to make an impact for users of ISC’s software. I am committed to software development transparency - including our mistakes. I am not afraid to change things, and I can make decisions and take responsibility for the outcomes.”

When asked if there’s anything else people should know about him, Ondřej replies with a quote from Richard Dawkins: “Some people define atheism as a positive conviction that there are no gods and agnosticism as allowing for the possibility, however slight. In this sense I am agnostic, as any scientist would be. But only in the same way I am agnostic about leprechauns and fairies. Other people define agnosticism as the belief that the existence of gods is as probable as their nonexistence. In this sense I am certainly not agnostic. Not only are gods unnecessary for explaining anything, they are overwhelmingly improbable. I rather like the phrase of a friend who calls himself a ’tooth fairy agnostic’ — his belief in gods is as strong as his belief in the tooth fairy. So is mine. We live our lives on the assumption that there are no gods, fairies, hobgoblins, ghosts, zombies, poltergeists or any supernatural entities. Actually, it is not at all clear what supernatural could even mean, other than something which science does not (yet) understand.”

Although he may seem imposing if you’ve ever met him in person, Ondřej enjoys being outnumbered by his wife and three daughters at their home in Czechia.

Thank you for using ISC’s software and we hope you have enjoyed this peek behind the ISC curtain. We hope that sharing a little about us helps strengthen our connection to our customers. As always, we welcome your feedback at!

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