What is OpenTelemetry?

OpenTelemetryopen in new window is an open-source observability framework hosted by Cloud Native Computing Foundation. It is a merger of OpenCensus and OpenTracing projects.

OpenTelemetry aims to provide a single standard across all types of observability signals such as traces, logs, and metrics.

OpenTelemetry specifies how to collect and send telemetry data to backend platforms. With OpenTelemetry, you can instrument your application once and then add or change vendors without changing the instrumentation.

OpenTelemetry is available for most programming languages and provides interoperability across different languages and environments.

How to use OpenTelemetry?

The easiest way to get started with OpenTelemetry is to pick a tracing toolopen in new window (vendor) and follow the documentation. Most vendors provide pre-configured OpenTelemetry distros that allow you to skip some steps and can significantly improve your experience.

If you are looking for an open source solution, Jaeger is historically the default choice, but Uptrace provides more features and might be a better choice nowadays.

Uptrace is an open source APMopen in new window for OpenTelemetry that uses ClickHouse database to store traces, metrics, and logs. You can use it to monitor applications and set up automatic alerts to receive notifications via email, Slack, Telegram, and more.


  • OpenTelemetry API is a programming interface that you can use to instrument code to collect telemetry data such as traces, metrics, and logs.

  • OpenTelemetry SDK is the official implementation of OpenTelemetry API that processes and exports collected telemetry to backends.

  • Instrumentations are plugins for popular frameworks and libraries that use OpenTelemetry API to record important operations, for example, HTTP requests, DB queries, logs, errors, and more.

  • OpenTelemetry Collector is a proxy between your application and a backend. It receives telemetry data, transforms it, and then exports data to backends that can store it permanently. Collector can also act as an agent that pulls telemetry data from monitored systems, for example, Redis or filesystem metrics.

  • OTLP is the OpenTelemetry protocol used by SDK and Collector to export data to backends or other collectors. As a transport, OTLP can use gRPC (OTLP/gRPC) or HTTP (OTLP/HTTP).

  • Tracing toolsopen in new window allow to observe requests as they propagate through distributed systems, especially those built using a microservices architecture. See also DataDog competitors and alternativesopen in new window.

Last Updated: