OpenTelemetry vs OpenTracing: How to choose?

OpenTelemetry and OpenTracing are two related open source projects that aim to provide observability in modern distributed systems. While they have similar goals, there are some differences between them. Let's explore each project and their characteristics.

OpenTelemetry vs OpenTracing

What is OpenTelemetry?

OpenTelemetryopen in new window is designed to provide a unified observability solution that works across different programming languages, frameworks, and environments. It allows developers to instrument their code using a common set of APIs and provides flexibility in the choice of telemetry backends.

OpenTelemetry encourages collaboration and community involvement, driving the evolution and improvement of observability practices in the industry.

OpenTelemetry aims to be vendor agnostic, allowing you to choose different telemetry backends and easily move between them. It promotes a standardized format for telemetry data, enabling compatibility and interoperability between different systems and tools.


What is OpenTracing?

OpenTracing aims to simplify the process of introducing distributed tracingopen in new window into applications by providing a common API specification and ecosystem. It enables developers to generate and capture trace information, facilitating observability and performance analysis in complex distributed systems.

OpenTracing focuses specifically on distributed tracing, which involves tracing requests as they propagate through multiple services in a distributed system. The goal is to capture the timing and causal relationships between the various components involved in processing a request.

OpenTracing has a broad ecosystem of instrumentation libraries, integrations, and backends. It integrates with various tracing systems such as Jaeger, Uptrace, and others, allowing developers to choose a backend that suits their trace storage, analysis, and visualization needs.


OpenTelemetry vs OpenTracing

OpenTelemetry and OpenTracing share a common ancestry. In fact, OpenTelemetry is the result of a merger between OpenTracing and OpenCensus. OpenTelemetry aims to combine the best features of both projects to provide a single, standardized solution for telemetry instrumentation and collection.

In summary, while OpenTracing focuses on distributed tracing, OpenTelemetry expands the scope to include other aspects of observability such as metrics and logging. OpenTelemetry provides a unified and language agnostic approach to instrumentation, making it a more comprehensive and versatile solution for observability in modern distributed systems.

Although OpenTelemetry has superseded OpenTracing in terms of its broader observability capabilities, OpenTracing's principles and specifications remain valuable and have influenced the development of OpenTelemetry.

OpenTracing limitations

While OpenTracing is a useful tool for generating traces in distributed applications, it has some limitations that users should be aware of. Here are some limitations of using OpenTracing:

  • OpenTracing is now deprecated and users are encouraged to migrate to OpenTelemetry.
  • OpenTracing focuses only on trace generation for distributed applications.
  • OpenTracing does not provide a standard for generating other types of telemetry such as logs and metrics.
  • OpenTracing does not provide a standard for collecting and managing telemetry.
  • OpenTracing does not provide a standard for how to integrate with different backends. See OpenTelemetry backend.

Is OpenTelemetry compatible with OpenTracing?

OpenTelemetry was designed with backward compatibility in mind to ensure a smooth transition for projects already using OpenTracing.

OpenTelemetry provides bridge components that allow you to interoperate between OpenTelemetry and OpenTracing instrumentation and libraries. These bridge components allow you to gradually migrate from OpenTracing to OpenTelemetry without disrupting your existing tracing setup.

While OpenTelemetry provides compatibility with OpenTracing, the preferred approach is to migrate to native OpenTelemetry instrumentations in the long term.

OpenTelemetry instrumentationsopen in new window offer more advanced features and access to the full observability capabilities provided by OpenTelemetry. However, the compatibility layer allows for a gradual transition, ensuring a smooth migration path for projects already utilizing OpenTracing.

OpenTracing shim

OpenTelemetry project includes OpenTelemetry Collectoropen in new window, which acts as a centralized agent for collecting, transforming, and exporting telemetry data. OpenTelemetry Collector includes a component called the OpenTracing Shim, which allows you to consume traces generated by OpenTracing instrumentation and export them as OpenTelemetry data.

By using OpenTelemetry Collector with the OpenTracing Shim, you can continue to use your existing OpenTracing instrumentation and seamlessly integrate it with the rest of the OpenTelemetry ecosystem to take advantage of the advanced capabilities provided by OpenTelemetry.

How to choose between OpenTelemetry and OpenTracing?

If you're thinking about choosing between OpenTelemetry and OpenTracing, it is recommended that you go for OpenTelemetry as OpenTracing is now deprecated. However, OpenTelemetry supports the use of both the OpenTelemetry and OpenTracing APIs in the same code base to ease migration.

OpenTelemetry provides a more comprehensive observability solution than OpenTracing. While OpenTracing focuses solely on distributed tracing, OpenTelemetry extends the scope to include metrics and logs. With OpenTelemetry, you can take a unified approach to collecting and analyzing metrics, traces, and logs to gain a more complete understanding of your system's behavior and performance.

But if you already have an existing application that uses OpenTracing, it may make sense to continue using OpenTracing in the short term. However, given the momentum and broader feature set of OpenTelemetry, it would be beneficial to plan to migrate to OpenTelemetry in the future to take advantage of its enhanced observability capabilities.


OpenTelemetry is a newer project that combines the roles of OpenTracing and OpenCensus and aims to standardize the generation, collection, and management of telemetry data. OpenTracing is an older project that provides APIs and instrumentation for collecting telemetry data, specifically traces.

Next, choose an OpenTelemetry backend to store, process, analyze, and visualize the telemetry data collected from applications. The backend acts as a critical component in the observability pipeline, allowing you to derive insights and take action based on the collected telemetry data.

Uptrace is a OpenTelemetry APMopen in new window powered by OpenTelemetry and ClickHouse. It allows you to identify and fix bugs in production faster knowing what conditions lead to which errors.

You can get startedopen in new window with Uptrace by downloading a DEB/RPM package or a precompiled Go binary.

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