distributed tracing

In the existing context of delivering software architectures only quality, reliability, performance, and efficiency of the applications are the areas of immense concern. It is impossible to doubt that today’s large applications, many of which are based on microservices architectures, are immensely intricate and warrant sophisticated monitoring and debugging tools. That is where such notions as distributed tracing, observability, or open telemetry logging are unraveled. These are topics this article will go through by explaining how these concepts function and how best to use them to boost application performance. 

What is Distributed Tracing?

Distributed tracing is a way of managing traces for requests that go through a distributed environment. It offers a view of the request and how the application’s services that it impacts them within a specific time, and possible errors. This is especially helpful to those applications that are implemented using the microservices architectural pattern for debugging and performance tuning. 

 Key Components of Distributed Tracing:Key Components of Distributed Tracing: 

 Trace: A trace is the full process of the request traversing through the various launches of the services in the system. 

 Span: A span is a single piece of work through a trace and this is the amount of work that is done in one go between services. 

 Context Propagation: This makes certain that the trace information is propagated between services correctly and preserves the correspondence between the spans. 

 Example of Distributed Tracing: 

 Suppose we are solving an e-commerce application problem in which the user wants to place an order. This process includes several services like the user interface, inventories service, payment service, and order management system. Observing distributed tracing will cover the entire flow starting from the request made to place an order up to the different services to the fulfillment of the order or identification of a problem. 

What is Observability?

It is the property of a system whereby the system state can be assessed from the output generated by the system. It extends past monitoring wherein the user gains more data of the actions of the system, problems are foreseen and solved. 

 Pillars of Observability: 

 Metrics: Amounts of data that supports distances of certain characteristics of the system experience like the CPU, the memory and rates of requests. 

 Logs: Specific reports of occurring events within the system useful in identification of problems and in auditing. 

 Traces: follow up of requests passed through the different apparatus in the system to determine the time lag and relationships. 

Observability Example 

Therefore in a microservices architecture it could mean that observability might mean having to capture the rate of orders per minute, or manage logs errors and exceptions in the payment gateway, and the use of distributed traces for each request made for orders. Integration of these data sources provides developers with complete information on the systems’ performance and any problematic areas can be easily spotted and addressed. 

What is OpenTelemetry?

OpenTelemetry is a project thats source and aims to create a system, for gathering, handling and sending telemetry data (such as traces, metrics and logs) from applications. Its goal is to establish practices for observability making it simpler to instrument applications and connect with observability platforms.

Key Aspects of OpenTelemetry;

 APIs and SDKs; OpenTelemetry provides APIs and SDKs across various programming languages streamlining the process of instrumentation.

 Context Passing; It enables context passing to ensure that traces and spans are appropriately linked across service boundaries.

 Integration with Platforms; OpenTelemetry can export telemetry data to diverse observability platforms like Prometheus, Jaeger, Zipkin and Elasticsearch.

OpenTelemetry Logging;

Logging plays a role in observability by offering records of system events. OpenTelemetry improves logging by standardizing how logs are gathered, processed and associated with traces and metrics.

Advantages of OpenTelemetry Logging;

 Uniformity; Standard logging formats and methods guarantee consistency among services and programming languages.

 Association; Logs can be associated with traces and metrics, for a view of system performance.

 Versatility; OpenTelemetry supports logging frameworks. Can send logs to multiple platforms.In a setup using microservices every individual service may generate logs concerning request processing, issues and performance data. OpenTelemetry can gather these logs enhance them with trace details (, like trace and span IDs) and send them to a logging system such, as Elasticsearch. This empowers developers to search through and study logs alongside traces and metrics offering an understanding of the systems operations.

Implementing Distributed Tracing, Observability, and OpenTelemetry Logging

Instrumentation applications:

Distributed tracing: Use the OpenTelemetry SDK to instrument your application code. This includes creating margins for key operations and ensuring context is propagated across service boundaries.

Observability: Collect metrics using the OpenTelemetry metrics SDKs, implement structured logging, and ensure traces, metrics, and logs are properly correlated.

OpenTelemetry Logging: Integrate the OpenTelemetry logging SDKs into your application, configure log enrichment with trace context, and set up log export to a backend of your choice.

Setting up backends:

Traces: Use backends like Jaeger or Zipkin for distributed tracing that allow you to visualize and analyze traces.

Metrics: Use Prometheus for metrics collection and Grafana for visualization, allowing you to track key performance indicators.

Logs: Use Elasticsearch for log storage and Kibana for log analysis, providing powerful querying and visualization capabilities.

Monitoring and alerts:

Dashboards: Create dashboards in Grafana to visualize metrics, traces, and logs. This provides real-time insight into system performance and health.

Alerts: Set up alerts in Grafana or your monitoring backend to notify you of performance issues, errors, or anomalies. This enables proactive problem detection and resolution.

Analysis and Troubleshooting:

Trace Analysis: Use trace tools to analyze traces, identify latency issues, and understand service dependencies.

Log analysis: Use logging tools to search and analyze logs, troubleshoot errors, and gain insight into application behavior.

Metrics Analysis: Use metrics dashboards to monitor performance trends, identify resource bottlenecks, and optimize resource utilization.

Benefits of OpenTelemetry’s distributed tracing, observability and logging

  • Improved visibility:

Gain deep insight into application performance and behavior, enabling proactive problem detection and resolution.

  • Improved troubleshooting:

Quickly identify and diagnose issues by correlating routes, protocols, and metrics, reducing mean time to resolution (MTTR).

  • Optimized performance:

Identify performance bottlenecks and optimize resource usage, improve application efficiency and user experience.

  • Standardized procedures:

Use OpenTelemetry to standardize observability practices across different services and languages, ensuring consistency and reducing complexity.

  • Flexibility and scalability:

Leverage OpenTelemetry’s flexibility to integrate with various observability backends, enabling scalable and cost-effective observability solutions.


OpenTelemetry’s distributed tracing, observability, and logging are essential tools for developing and running modern applications. By understanding and implementing these concepts, organizations can achieve better visibility, better problem solving and optimized performance. In particular, OpenTelemetry offers a powerful and flexible framework for standardizing observability practices, simplifying instrumentation, and integrating with various observability backends.

As application complexity continues to grow, the importance of effective observability cannot be overstated. By leveraging distributed tracing, end-to-end observability, and standardized logging practices, organizations can ensure the reliability, performance, and efficiency of their applications, ultimately resulting in a better user experience.

By Anurag Rathod

Anurag Rathod is an Editor of Appclonescript.com, who is passionate for app-based startup solutions and on-demand business ideas. He believes in spreading tech trends. He is an avid reader and loves thinking out of the box to promote new technologies.