• Define OpenTelemetry and explain its core components.
• Define telemetry and list the “three pillars of observability.”
• Explain the benefits of OpenTelemetry to IT and DevOps personnel.
Developers, DevOps engineers, and site reliability engineers (SREs) are responsible for ensuring the health and performance of the applications they develop or oversee, as well as the underlying infrastructure they run on. That’s a challenge in today’s cloud-based, distributed data environments, where capturing and exporting telemetry data is a complex process involving multiple, disparate tools that integrate poorly -- if they integrate at all, resulting in data silos and the poor visibility that comes with them.
Enter OpenTelemetry, an open-source, vendor-agnostic set of APIs, software development kits (SDKs), and other tools for collecting and exporting telemetry data from cloud-native applications and infrastructure. OpenTelemetry provides IT and DevOps personnel with tools that greatly simplify the process of collecting and exporting data from cloud-native applications while creating a single unified standard for service instrumentation.
Understanding what OpenTelemetry does and how it benefits organizations requires understanding telemetry data, observability, and instrumentation.
Instrumentation is the ability to monitor and measure performance, detect errors, and obtain trace information representing an application’s state. At the same time, observability is the practice of measuring system state by system output. Both happen via telemetry data, simply the output from the automatic recording and transmission of data.
IT and DevOps worlds are most concerned with three primary data classes, often called “the three pillars of observability”:
OpenTelemetry consists of several components:
Organizations can choose to export data simultaneously to multiple observability platforms. OpenTelemetry can even feed data into an AI engine for analysis, subsequently automating the observability process and getting actionable insights to decision-makers faster.
Service instrumentation is not a new concept, but telemetry is. While tools to collect telemetry data exist, data formats vary by software provider, leaving organizations vendor-locked while still not having complete visibility into their applications.
By providing an open standard for adding observable instrumentation to cloud-native applications, OpenTelemetry eliminates vendor lock and dramatically simplifies the instrumentation process while providing complete visibility into application telemetry. SREs, developers, and DevOps teams can develop new products and enhance existing applications instead of configuring their service instrumentation. This open standard also encourages contributions from the community, accelerating innovation and bringing new capabilities to bear that enhance the value of the OpenTelemetry standard.
OpenTelemetry is a Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) incubator project. It’s among the most active CNCF projects, and many OpenTelemetry enthusiasts compare it to another well-known CNCF project: Kubernetes. Just as Kubernetes standardizes and simplifies container orchestration, OpenTelemetry aims to standardize and streamline application instrumentation.