Free and Open Source Distributed Tracing Tools

Tracing tools help you manage, monitor, and assess performance of your cloud infrastructure, services, and applications, and make sure your customers get the best digital experience.

The best tracing tools can help you eliminate performance bottlenecks and recover from incidents faster. Use this guide to pick the right one for you.

What is a distributed tracing tool?

Distributed tracingopen in new window tools allow you to see how a request progresses through different services and systems, timings of each operation, any logs and errors as they occur.

In a distributed environment, tracing tools also help you understand relationships and interactions between microservices. Tracing tools gives an insight into how a particular microservice is performing and how that service affects other microservices.

Why do you need a distributed tracing tool?

Get a centralized view. Tracing provides a single view of your distributed microservices. Your team can more easily understand how an application is built and how services interact with each other.

Fix bottlenecks faster. By having all the service's performance in hand, you can quickly pinpoint failures and identify performance bottlenecks.

Recover from incidents faster. A gread tracing tool can notify you when the site is down or a performance anomaly is detected.

Open source tracing tools

Uptrace

Uptraceopen in new window is an OpenTelemetry tracing tool that monitors performance, errors, and logs. Main features include an intuitive query builder, rich dashboards, percentiles, users and projects management.

Uptrace distributed tracing tool

Tech stack:

  • Backend: Go
  • Frontend: Vue.js
  • Instrumentation: OpenTelemetry / OTLP
  • Storage: ClickHouse with S3

Pros:

  • Supports both tracing and metrics
  • Rich UI with charts
  • Advanced filtering capabilities
  • Simple setup with ClickHouse being the only dependency
  • OpenTelemetry support including pre-configured distros

Cons:

  • ClickHouse is the only supported DBMS

SigNoz

SigNozopen in new window is an open-source APM. It helps developers monitor their applications & troubleshoot problems.

SigNoz provides a unified UI for metrics and traces so that there is no need to switch between different tools such as Jaeger and Prometheus.

SigNoz

Tech stack:

  • Backend: Go
  • Frontend: React
  • Instrumentation: OpenTelemetry / OTLP
  • Storage: ClickHouse

Pros:

  • Native OpenTelemetry support
  • Rich UI with charts
  • Metrics support using Prometheus as a backend and custom UI
  • Traces visualization using Flamegraphs and Gantt charts
  • Filters based on tags, status codes, service names, operation, etc.
  • Alarms

Jaeger

Jaegeropen in new window is a distributed tracing platform created by Uber Technologies. It can be used for monitoring microservices-based distributed systems.

Jaeger

Tech stack:

  • Backend: Go
  • Frontend: React
  • Instrumentation: OpenTelemetry / OTLP
  • Storage: Cassandra, Elasticsearch; ClickHouse using a plugin

Pros:

  • Stable and well-known project
  • Adaptive sampling
  • Support for multiple DBMS via plugins
  • Sponsored by CNCF

Cons:

  • No charts / percentiles
  • Limited filtering capabilities
  • Not all plugins are maintained and usable

Sentry

Sentryopen in new window tracks your software performance, measures metrics like throughput and latency, and displays the impact of errors across multiple systems.

Sentry

Tech stack:

  • Backend: Python
  • Frontend: React
  • Instrumentation: Sentry SDK
  • Storage: Kafka, Redis, PostgreSQL, ClickHouse

Pros:

  • Excellent errors monitoring
  • Quality SDK for Go, Python, Ruby, .NET, and PHP
  • Friendly UI

Cons:

  • Complex setup
  • No OpenTelemetry support
  • The UI is built around errors monitoring

SkyWalking

SkyWalkingopen in new window is an open source APM system, including monitoring, tracing, diagnosing capabilities for distributed system in Cloud Native architecture.

SkyWalking

Tech stack:

  • Backend: Java
  • Frontend: Vue.js
  • Instrumentation: SkyWalking
  • Storage: ElasticSearch, MySQL, TiDB, InfluxDB, and more

Pros:

  • Rich UI with charts
  • Good metrics support (including dashboards)
  • Alarms
  • Support for multiple DBMS

Cons:

  • Complex setup
  • Complex and overloaded UI
  • Confusing tracing UI
  • OpenTelemetry support requires OpenTelemetry Collector

Zipkin

Zipkinopen in new window is a distributed tracing system. It helps gather timing data needed to troubleshoot latency problems in service architectures. Features include both the collection and lookup of this data.

Zipkin's UI is minimalistic, but you can replace it with Grafana/Kibana configured to work with Zipkin data source.

Zipkin

Tech stack:

  • Backend: Java
  • Frontend: React
  • Instrumentation: Zipkin span model; OpenTelemetry via adapter
  • Storage: MySQL, Cassandra, or Elasticsearch.

Pros:

  • Stable and well-known project
  • Support for multiple DBMS

Cons:

  • No active development
  • Limited UI and filtering capabilities
  • OpenTelemetry support requires an adapter
  • No ClickHouse support

Grafana Tempo

Grafana Tempoopen in new window is an open source, easy-to-use, and high-scale distributed tracing backend. Tempo is cost-efficient, requiring only object storage to operate, and is deeply integrated with Grafana, Prometheus, and Loki. Tempo can ingest common open source tracing protocols, including Jaeger, Zipkin, and OpenTelemetry.

Zipkin

Tech stack:

  • Backend: Go
  • Frontend: React
  • Instrumentation: OpenTelemetry / OTLP
  • Storage: Grafana Tempo

Pros:

  • Integration with Grafana metrics dashboard
  • OpenTelemetry support

Cons:

  • The UI is built around metrics and feels awkward / clumsy for everything else
  • Limited filtering capabilities

If you looking for a paid tracing tool in the cloud, see our guide for DataDog competitors and alternatives.

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