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As a developer, running an application connected to numerous different services and systems can cause challenges for tracking or tracing issues. Understanding what data to collect and how to collect it properly is fundamental to quickly addressing availability and performance issues. You’ll need data about the application, which usually starts with logs. Over time, you’ll add in metrics, and, at some point, you might add traces. With OpenTelemetry®, you get all three with one tool.
OpenTelemetry is an open-source observability tool allowing you to collect information about the performance of your application remotely. It creates all the data needed to understand your systems and where they’re going wrong or working correctly.
The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) hosts OpenTelemetry (formed in 2018) as a standard way to generate telemetry data. The alpha and beta versions were released in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Currently, OpenTelemetry specification has reached general availability in some of the more popular languages.
OpenTelemetry began as a merger between OpenTracing, a standard for generating trace data, and OpenCensus, a standard for generating metrics. OpenTracing and OpenCensus were founded in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The creators of OpenTelemetry hope it will one day replace OpenCensus and OpenTracing.
The OpenTelemetry project features:
OpenTelemetry is used in back- and front-end applications.
At the front end of your application, OpenTelemetry can do the following:
At the back end of your application, OpenTelemetry can do the following:
For infrastructure, OpenTelemetry can be used to:
OpenTelemetry integrates with popular languages, frameworks, and applications and offers excellent language support for language integrations. It’s flexible to use, meaning you can modify and work with various components as you choose and roll back to an older version when required. It also performs fast, providing you with all the information you need.
OpenTelemetry offers end-to-end coverage, from client applications to services to infrastructure, using a single protocol. OpenTelemetry can cover everything from client applications to the back end. For example, opentelemetry-js, which runs on web browsers, can capture data from your back-end services to the core infrastructure they’re hosted on. It can also be used to validate your software supply chain.
Deploying auto instrumentation can be complicated, especially if you’re working with it for the first time, as it adds more load to your application. Including OpenTelemetry in your application can increase your lines of code and attention to traces, creating an extra burden and requiring a change in the infrastructure your application is running on, meaning it’s going to change the way you deploy your application.
Shopify is one example of a company using OpenTelemetry with the collector at the core of its architecture. Some use cases for implementing the collector in their system include downsampling, custom tags, renaming spans, etc. Other companies using OpenTelemetry include Alibaba, Boomin, Hyperconnect, and Tucows.
There are three basic steps for getting started with OpenTelemetry:
Various providers for distributors of the collector, SDK, etc., are available.
PureOS® is the OpenTelemetry main open-source OS and is a common choice for the IT community. Users will need to include the right integrations (including FluentD® for logs) and exporters, but it still provides the full observability cloud experience. Other options include AWS Distro for OpenTelemetry, Splunk, SolarWinds, or New Relic.
Working with OpenTelemetry for the first time can be challenging, but the benefits can outweigh the costs. As a developer, there are best practices to help you get the most out of your telemetry data, which can improve business and user satisfaction. In the end, you’ll want to generate traces for troubleshooting to understand your system. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
Now you’ve learned the pros and cons of OpenTelemetry and how to get started. If you want to monitor and get log messages for your applications, try out SolarWinds® Loggly™. Loggly offers a fast, powerful searching function for massive volumes of data, allowing you to monitor logs at scale and quickly investigate and fix issues. It’s easy and fast to set up, with powerful integrations, team visibility, and more. Try it for free today.
This post was written by Jethro Magaji. Jethro is a front-end engineer passionate about the tech world and uses creative thinking to solve business problems with a user-centered approach.