What you need to know about distributed tracing

How to create fast LogQL queries to filter terabytes of logs per second with FusionReactor
Best practices to optimize and enhance log data

Downside of a modern application ecosystem

The downside of a modern application ecosystem is that the distributed environment and architecture have made monitoring modern applications with footprints in cloud computing, microservices, and container delivery solutions more difficult. 

Whether you’re a product manager, owner, site engineer, DevOps engineer, or IT executive, this article will guide you on what you need to know about distributed tracing, why it matters, and when your organization can implement it. 

What is distributed tracing?

A distributed tracing solution observes and tracks service requests by collecting data from service to service as they connect through distributed systems. The distributed trace data gives insights into how request flows through the microservices or cloud computing environment and localize system performance issues occurring within the system.  

Let’s look at it this way; usually, a single trace will reveal the activities for any individual service request you’re monitoring within the application. In the case of a distributed trace, insights are revealed about the distributed service request in microservice to cloud environments you’re tracking across multiple systems. 

The implication is that, since applications with microservices tend to generate a lot of log data and are burdensome, distributed tracing makes monitoring your entire application environment easier.

The development of distributed tracing

Conventional monitoring approaches allowed IT operators to track simple and static monolithic applications easily. The process was relatively simple to review what transpired within them. It’s a different story in today’s enterprise environment. There is a rise in service-oriented architectures. This made it harder to understand how specific transactions occurred through various application sections. Moreover, the fast adoption of cloud-based microservices with complex ephemerals and constant entropic states have made it almost impossible for conventional monitoring solutions to remain relevant. 

I&O leaders must reevaluate their goals and approaches and move from conventional monitoring. IT leaders began to think. It was time for a change, and it had to be the need for better observability across distributed service requests as they flow through distributed systems. Looking at the enormous investment involved, no one wanted to build a solution using internal development resources from scratch. So, this gave birth to distributed tracing; to meet the need to adequately monitor performance issues affecting their microservice environment. 

The benefits of distributed tracing and why it matters

The ultimate goal of every modern application landscape, such as cloud, microservices serverless functions, site reliability engineering (SRE), containers, and DevOps – is to speed up the process and narrow the friction of pushing software from code to production. Irrespective of the positive benefits, they also trigger a few challenges like;

  • Multiple points failure across the application stack
  • Due to the complexity of the application environment, the Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR) increases.
  • It affects innovation negatively as IT officers spend most of their time diagnosing system problems. 

With distributed tracing, teams can quickly uncover the core issues affecting application performance earlier on. When a case is observed, organizations can promptly introduce distributed tracing to address the main problems and provide solutions. 

Distributed tracing can localize the mapped out areas having issues within the application; this way, teams can improve their communication and collaboration in ensuring the overall performance of the application. Distributed tracing positively impact the organization in the following areas;

  • Measure the overall health and customer reactions when changes are made
  • Quickly identify and provide solutions to issues to minimize customer downtime.
  • Allow teams to continue to innovate on competitive ideas and think outside the box. 
  • Localize high-value environments that need to improve customer experiences. 

How distributed tracing works and why we need it

Instrumenting your environment is the first step to starting your distributed tracing journey. Instrumentation involves organizing your environment to enable data collection and correlation across the distributed system. Once data collection, correlation, and analysis are figured out, you can visualize it to see performance status, abnormal events, or strange latency. Instrumenting your environment requires adding codes to services to monitor and track data. Solutions such as FusionReactor makes it stress-free to instrument your applications across multiple programming languages and frameworks. 

During the tracing process, each activity is called a segment or span triggered by a service request and tracked as it travels across services. Important data collected will include name, timestamps, and other relevant metadata. So when one activity is completed, the parent span, it delivers the next segment to its child span, placing each span in its appropriate order. 

Since the complexity of distributed systems is one of the significant issues associated with modern applications, businesses need distributed tracing to help uncover the multiple points of failures across the application. Distributed tracing gives teams the speed needed to quickly understand the performance of each microservice within the application and how they can quickly resolve issues without affecting the customer experience. 

The impact of tracing through distributed systems

Distributed tracing puts organizations in a position of success as they can gain crucial insight into the performance of their application by revealing the complete journey of the service request within the application stack. 

One of the fascinating things about distributed tracing is that it takes a record of the end-to-end journey of a request. However, it can easily track a service request across several environments within an application stack. This empowers IT teams; DevSecOps and SRE to:

  • Analyze how customers navigate the system by taking average responses, error rates, and other metrics.
  • Be quick to detect unexpected system behavior and recover from system downtime.
  • Resolve performance issues and code-level bottlenecks, and debug the systems. 
  • Record and report on the overall health of microservices across the application stack 

Why distributed tracing is important for the distributed world

The rise of microservices in building cloud-based applications will continue to shape the future of modern cloud-native applications. One thing is sure, and this system will continue to grow complex. However, distributed tracing will be more critical to the distributed world. This approach is way better than the conventional, pin-in-a-haystack strategy for solving problems affecting customer experience and system up time.

FusionReactor’s distributed tracing, combines the capabilities of logs, metrics, and distributed traces to give full end-to-end observability into your application landscape. If you manage a microservice-based system, implementing the FusionReactor monitoring tool will transform how you do your job