What Is OpenTelemetry and Why Should You Care?

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OpenTelemetry is an impartial and standard way to gather the required data for applications, along with their supporting infrastructures and services. The most advanced data available now are spans and traces, while automated instrumentation, metrics, and additional languages are still developing. Logs are also scheduled to be included at a later release date.

What Is OpenTelemetry?

When we talk about what is OpenTelemetry, we are simply referring to the group of tools. SDKs, and APIs are used to generate, instrument, collect, and export telemetry data (such as metrics, traces, and logs). For better analysis and understanding of the performance and operations of a given software.

Given all this information, one may wonder what an OpenTelemetry collector is and why you should care. Firstly, OpenTelemetry, a cloud-native computing tool bridges the gap between service providers and users alike when collecting data from a diverse set of systems. This, therefore, helps providers and users gain a broad picture of the application’s performance and the underlying reasons for the derived result.

Issues Regarding Capturing Telemetry Data

While OpenTelemetry collector is a great data collection and monitoring solution, it does however come with a few challenges, especially data capturing.

Firstly, with an increase in the amount of data to be collected (compared with a few years ago), they may need to collect information for numerous data points or devices simultaneously. This however poses problems with identifying the source of the data and how it should be managed. There’s also the need to handle massive amounts of data (sometimes Gigabytes) from a single device per hour. This all points back to a massive explosion in the amount of data that needs to be captured and transmitted. It may lead to some issues in the quality of data captured.

The Option Of OpenTelemetry

Choosing the option of OpenTelemetry comes with a set of tools and a fairly wide range of other options. Some popular alternatives to OpenTelemetry include Kibana, Grafana, Prometheus, Nagios, Zabbix, Graphite, StatsD, and Sensu.

If you choose to use OpenTelemetry as a monitoring tool, then you are in good hands. OpenTelemetry APIs and SDKs come along with a ton of guides to help you get started.

How Does OpenTelemetry Work?

OpenTelemetry is a tool with many elements. In this section, we list them out and explain how they work:


APIs are instrumental when implementing your code to generate traces. Traces are responsible for making calls and communicating information with other parts. This action is usually executed via code change or the use of auto-instrumentation agents, which are still undergoing development.

Very soon, as it is projected, most libraries will come with OpenTelemetry already pre-installed. The API does not handle how data is sent to vendor back-ends and has the following components:

  • A tracer API: these APIs generate spans (a named and timed operation that represents a related segment of work in a trace)
  • A metrics API: This grants users the ability to use the various types of metric instruments.
  • A context API: This enriches spans and traces with context information.
  • A set of semantic conventions: Guidelines and rules for executing certain commands.
  • Also, with OpenTelemetry Golang, developers can implement cloud-trace for Go applications.


SDKs are used to collect telemetry data and pass it along to processing and, finally, export.

3.In-Process Exporters:

This feature works with the application to translate the collected telemetry data into custom formats. This is then transported directly or through a collector to the back-end from a wide range of open-source and commercial providers. This process is language-specific, and it is the most commonly used approach, as it was first developed.

4.The Out-of-Process Collector:

This component is used to filter data for aggregation, batching, and sending messages to several telemetry back-ends. In an out-of-process collector, communication takes place through a vendor-specific exporter or a standard OpenTelemetry OTLP exporter. The out-of-process collector enables customers to use the bundled OpenTelemetry OLTP exporter. This keeps the inconvenience of relying on multiple specific in-process exporters at a minimum. With the fast-paced evolution of OpenTelemetry standards to support all existing and upcoming languages, multiple specific in-process exporters can easily get out of sync.

OpenTelemetry implements all its components, alongside reference architecture, towards building a flexible and scalable system.

The Benefits Of OpenTelemetry

Outlined below are some great benefits of OpenTelemetry:

  • OpenTelemetry gives you all the data you need regarding your cloud-based applications: Utilizing a single set of language-specific APIs, OpenTelemetry captures all relevant data from the web frameworks, storage clients, and RPC systems that your application utilizes. This data is used to create custom metrics, trace spans, and in the not-too-distant future, logs.
  • With OpenTelemetry, you only need one set of standards: OpenTelemetry is a fusion of two open-source projects, each utilizing its respective set of standards. OpenTelemetry merges both projects into a single set of standards. Giving users more autonomy regarding their choice of the ecosystem and access to work with more vendors and projects. The system gives you backward compatibility for both open source projects.
  • OpenTelemetry optimizes applications’ performance over distributed systems: With the Software Development Kits provided by OpenTelemetry, users can easily use APIs to collect request latency and throughput metrics. It also allows you to propagate distributed traces and export the collected data to any APM tools you use, such as Google Cloud’s operations suite.
  • OpenTelemetry is versatile: This technology is compatible with a wide range of languages and back-ends. It helps you collect and transmit telemetry data to back-ends in a vendor-friendly manner that does not change any existing instrumentation. It thus affords the developer more freedom.

Conclusion – OpenTelemetry Helps Users Build Resilient Solution-Based Software

In a nutshell, OpenTelemetry helps users build resilient solution-based software without focusing on the tiniest details of decision-making. OpenTelemetry collector doesn’t just solve the problem of gaining access to telemetry data such as metrics, events, logs, and traces (or MELTS). It helps users understand how the infrastructure and its supporting systems impact the well-being and user experience of the application, thereby directly impacting business.