How OpenTelemetry Works and Its Use Cases

June 16, 2024 by OpenObserve Team
otel use cases

Introduction to OpenTelemetry

OpenTelemetry is an open-source project that helps developers collect and send data about their applications to monitoring and observability platforms.

It is a vendor-neutral initiative, which means it is not owned or controlled by any single company.

Origin from the merger of OpenCensus and OpenTracing

OpenTelemetry originated from the merger of two open-source projects: OpenCensus and OpenTracing.

This merger took place in 2019. It combined the strengths of both projects to create a comprehensive and vendor-neutral solution for application monitoring and observability.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) announced the merger of OpenCensus and OpenTracing into OpenTelemetry, a new project.


The merger combined the strengths of both projects, creating a unified solution for collecting and exporting telemetry data (metrics, logs, and traces) from applications.

By combining the expertise and resources of both projects, OpenTelemetry has become a robust and comprehensive solution for developers looking to gain visibility into their applications.

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Components and Architecture

Components and Architecture

OpenTelemetry provides components and architecture for collecting and processing telemetry data from applications.

Here are the critical components of OpenTelemetry:

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)

  • OpenTelemetry offers APIs for instrumenting code in various programming languages, including Java, Python, Go, and Node.js. NET.
  • These APIs allow developers to generate telemetry data from their applications, such as metrics, logs, and traces.

Software Development Kits (SDKs)

  • OpenTelemetry provides SDKs that implement the APIs and manage telemetry data collection, processing, and export.
  • The SDKs handle sampling, batching, and exporting data to various backends.

Data Specifications

  • OpenTelemetry defines data specifications, including the OpenTelemetry Protocol (OTLP), which standardizes the format and transport of telemetry data.
  • This ensures interoperability between different components and backends.

OpenTelemetry Collector

  • The OpenTelemetry Collector is a critical component that receives, processes, and exports telemetry data.
  • It supports various data sources, formats, and export destinations, making it an extensible component in the OpenTelemetry ecosystem.

The collector can perform tasks such as:

  • Receiving data from multiple sources
  • Processing and transforming data
  • Batching and compressing data
  • Exporting data to various backends

By leveraging these components, OpenTelemetry enables developers to instrument their applications, generate telemetry data, and export it to various monitoring and observability platforms.

The modular and extensible architecture of OpenTelemetry ensures flexibility and adaptability to different monitoring requirements and environments.

OpenTelemetry Collector Deep Dive

The OpenTelemetry Collector is a critical component in the Observability ecosystem, providing essential functionality for ingesting, translating, and exporting telemetry data.

Here is a deep dive into the OpenTelemetry Collector:


The OpenTelemetry Collector is a central hub for handling telemetry data within the Observability ecosystem. Its key functionalities include:

  • Ingestion: The Collector receives telemetry data from various sources, such as applications, services, and infrastructure components.
  • Translation: It translates incoming data into a standardized format that can be processed and analyzed effectively.
  • Export: The Collector exports the translated telemetry data to monitoring and observability platforms for further analysis and visualization.


The OpenTelemetry Collector is composed of several vital components that work together to ensure efficient telemetry data handling:

  • Receivers: Receivers collect data from different sources, including agents, instrumentation libraries, and third-party systems.
  • Processors: Processors manipulate and enrich the incoming data, performing tasks like filtering, sampling, and adding contextual information.
  • Exporters: Exporters send the processed data to various backends, such as monitoring tools, logging systems, and analytics platforms.
  • Optional Extensions: Extensions provide additional functionalities, such as data transformation, enrichment, and integration with external systems.

Role in the Observability Ecosystem

The OpenTelemetry Collector plays a crucial role in managing metrics, logs, and traces within the Observability ecosystem:

  • Metrics Handling: The Collector collects, processes, and exports metric data to performance analysis and visualization monitoring platforms.
  • Logs Management: It handles log data, ensuring efficient log collection, processing, and export to logging systems for troubleshooting and analysis.
  • Traces Processing: The Collector manages distributed traces, facilitating trace collection and correlation and exporting them to tracing tools for performance optimization and debugging.

In summary, the OpenTelemetry Collector is a versatile and essential component in the Observability ecosystem. Its ingestion, translation, and export capabilities enable efficient handling of metrics, logs, and traces.

Its receivers, processors, exporters, and optional extensions work together to ensure seamless telemetry data management and analysis, enhancing visibility and performance optimization in complex application environments.

OpenObserve supports various OpenTelemetry SDKs and frameworks, providing flexibility in terms of the tools and technologies used in the integration process.

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Data Processing and Export

Here is an overview of the data processing and export capabilities in OpenTelemetry:

Instrumentation for Data Collection

  • OpenTelemetry provides APIs and SDKs to instrument code in various programming languages, enabling the collection of metrics, logs, and traces from applications.
  • This instrumentation allows developers to generate telemetry data that can be processed and exported.

Data Lifecycle Management

OpenTelemetry manages the lifecycle of collected data, which includes the following stages:

  • Pooling: Incoming data is pooled and buffered to handle spikes in data volume.
  • Processing: The pooled data is processed, which may involve filtering, sampling, or enrichment.
  • Exporting: The processed data is exported to various backends, such as monitoring platforms or storage systems.
  • Backend Integration: OpenTelemetry integrates with various backends to ensure seamless data export for further analysis and visualization.

OpenTelemetry Collector Configuration

The OpenTelemetry Collector is critical for receiving, processing, and exporting telemetry data. It can be configured to handle various aspects of data processing:

  • Data Reception: The Collector can receive data from multiple sources, including instrumented applications, agents, and other systems.
  • Data Processing: It offers a flexible processing pipeline for data transformation, filtering, and enrichment before export.
  • Data Export: The Collector supports exporting data to various backends, such as monitoring platforms, logging systems, and storage solutions.

Organizations can effectively collect, process, and export telemetry data from their applications by leveraging instrumentation, managing the data lifecycle, and configuring the OpenTelemetry Collector.

This enables comprehensive monitoring, troubleshooting, and application performance and reliability optimization.

Benefits of OpenTelemetry

OpenTelemetry offers several key benefits that make it a valuable tool for observability efforts:

Vendor Neutrality and Flexibility

  • OpenTelemetry is a vendor-neutral solution, which means it is not tied to any specific monitoring platform or vendor.
  • This flexibility allows organizations to collect and export telemetry data (metrics, logs, and traces) to various backends, ensuring compatibility with their preferred monitoring tools.
  • By avoiding vendor lock-in, OpenTelemetry enables organizations to choose the best-fit solutions for their needs.

Integration with OpenObserve using OpenTelemetry is easy and well-documented, providing a straightforward process for instrumenting code and sending traces to OpenObserve.

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Streamlining Observability Efforts

OpenTelemetry simplifies observability efforts by providing a unified data collection and export approach.

Instead of integrating with multiple instrumentation libraries or data collectors, organizations can leverage OpenTelemetry's APIs and SDKs to instrument their applications and generate telemetry data.

This streamlined approach reduces complexity, maintenance overhead, and the risk of inconsistencies in observability data.

Standardization of Data Collection

OpenTelemetry promotes the standardization of data collection mechanisms, ensuring that telemetry data is captured consistently across different applications, services, and platforms.

Adhering to common data specifications and protocols, such as the OpenTelemetry Protocol (OTLP), can help organizations achieve better interoperability and comparability of observability data.

This standardization enables more effective analysis, correlation, and troubleshooting of issues across the IT ecosystem.

By leveraging OpenTelemetry, organizations can gain better visibility into their applications, optimize performance, and improve overall system reliability.

Integration and Use Cases

Integration with Observability Tools

OpenTelemetry integrates seamlessly with various observability tools and platforms.

By providing vendor-neutral data formats and protocols, OpenTelemetry enables easy integration with popular tools like:

  • OpenObserve for comprehensive observability and monitoring solutions
  • Prometheus for metrics monitoring
  • Jaeger and Zipkin for distributed tracing
  • Elasticsearch and Splunk for log management
  • Datadog, New Relic, and Dynatrace for full-stack observability

This flexibility allows organizations to leverage their existing investments in observability tools while benefiting from OpenTelemetry's standardized data collection and export capabilities.

Use Cases in Cloud-Native Architectures

OpenTelemetry is particularly well-suited for observability in cloud-native architectures, which often involve complex, distributed systems.

Some key use cases include:

  • Distributed Tracing: OpenTelemetry's tracing capabilities enable tracking of transactions across microservices, providing visibility into service dependencies, latencies, and errors.
  • Container and Kubernetes Monitoring: OpenTelemetry integrates with container runtimes and Kubernetes to collect metrics and traces from containerized applications, facilitating performance optimization and troubleshooting in dynamic environments.
  • Serverless Observability: OpenTelemetry supports monitoring serverless functions, allowing organizations to gain insights into the performance and behavior of event-driven architectures.

Integration Examples

OpenTelemetry integration at Jidu

Jidu, a company that develops distributed applications, was previously limited to only 10% trace sampling with Elasticsearch, resulting in an incomplete view of their application's performance.

How OpenObserve Helped:

  • By deploying OpenObserve, Jidu was able to achieve 100% trace data sampling, allowing them to fully understand their application's performance and identify potential issues.
  • OpenObserve's efficient architecture and high compression capabilities significantly reduced the resource consumption for Jidu's distributed tracing needs.
  • Despite a 10x increase in ingested data, OpenObserve was able to reduce Jidu's daily storage requirement from 1 TB to just 0.3 TB, with minimal CPU and memory usage.
  • The substantial reduction in resource consumption with OpenObserve translated into significant cost savings for Jidu, particularly in terms of storage.

This led to improved application stability, enhanced operational efficiency, and ultimately, a more satisfied customer base.

Datadog's Full-Stack Visibility

Datadog has integrated OpenTelemetry into its observability platform, allowing users to leverage OpenTelemetry's standardized data collection while benefiting from Datadog's advanced analytics and visualization capabilities.

Dynatrace's Enhancements

Dynatrace, a leading APM solution, has enhanced its capabilities by incorporating OpenTelemetry support.

This integration enables organizations to leverage Dynatrace's powerful AI-driven insights while leveraging OpenTelemetry's vendor-neutral data collection.

By seamlessly integrating with various observability tools and providing advanced use cases in cloud-native architectures, OpenTelemetry empowers organizations to gain comprehensive visibility into their applications and infrastructure.

The integration examples with Datadog and Dynatrace showcase how OpenTelemetry can enhance existing observability solutions.

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Future Directions and Community

Here are the future directions and community aspects of OpenTelemetry:

Continuous Development of Metrics, Logs, and Baggage Signals

  • OpenTelemetry is continuously evolving to support new metrics, logs, and baggage signals.
  • The project aims to expand its capabilities to cover a broader range of telemetry data, enabling organizations to gain deeper insights into their application performance and behavior.

Robust Community Contribution and Support

OpenTelemetry has a robust community of contributors and users who actively participate in its development and support.

The project's open-source nature and vendor-neutral approach have fostered a collaborative environment where individuals and organizations can contribute to its growth and adoption.

Importance of the Development Roadmap

The development roadmap for OpenTelemetry is crucial for its evolution and adoption.

The roadmap outlines the project's vision, goals, and timelines for new features, enhancements, and platform support. It ensures that OpenTelemetry remains aligned with the needs of its users and the broader observability ecosystem.

By continuously developing new metrics, logs, and baggage signals, fostering a robust community, and maintaining a clear development roadmap, OpenTelemetry is poised to remain a leading solution for observability in modern application environments.

Best Practices for Implementation

Here are the best practices for implementing OpenTelemetry in an optometry practice:

Activating Components through Pipeline Configuration

  • You must activate the relevant components in the OpenTelemetry Collector's pipeline configuration to collect and process telemetry data.
  • This includes enabling the appropriate receivers to ingest data from various sources, such as instrumented applications or logs.
  • You can configure processors to transform, filter, or enrich the collected data before exporting it to the desired backends.

Defining Processing Order in the Collector's Service Section

  • The order in which components are defined in the Collector's service section determines the processing pipeline.
  • It's important to consider the sequence of receivers, processors, and exporters carefully to ensure efficient data flow and avoid potential bottlenecks.
  • For example, you might want to apply data transformations or filtering before exporting the data to reduce the load on the backend systems.

Configuration Nuances for Scalability and Efficiency

To ensure scalability and efficiency, consider the following configuration nuances when implementing OpenTelemetry in your optometry practice:

  • Resource Allocation: Allocate sufficient CPU and memory resources to the OpenTelemetry Collector based on the expected data volume and processing requirements.
  • Batching and Compression: Enable batching and compression options for exporters to optimize network utilization and reduce the load on backend systems.
  • Sampling and Filtering: Configure sampling and filtering options to control the volume of data collected and processed, especially for high-cardinality data like traces.
  • Monitoring and Alerting: Set up monitoring and alerting for the OpenTelemetry Collector to ensure smooth operation and timely detection of any issues.

By following these best practices, you can effectively implement OpenTelemetry in your practice, ensuring comprehensive data collection, efficient processing, and seamless integration with your observability ecosystem.

Challenges and Considerations

Here are the key challenges and considerations when using OpenTelemetry:

Language and Framework Support Variability

  • OpenTelemetry provides instrumentation support for various programming languages, including Java, Python, Go, Node.js, and .NET.
  • However, the level of support and feature parity may vary across different languages and frameworks.
  • This variability can lead to inconsistencies in data collection and make it challenging to maintain a uniform observability strategy across the entire application stack.

Data Types and Telemetry Signals Support Limitations

  • While OpenTelemetry aims to provide a comprehensive solution for collecting metrics, logs, and traces, supporting specific data types and telemetry signals may be limited or evolving.
  • Organizations may encounter gaps in data collection capabilities, especially for specialized or custom telemetry signals, which can hinder their ability to fully understand application performance and behavior.

Implementation Complexity and Resource Allocation for Maintenance

Implementing OpenTelemetry across a large and complex application landscape can be challenging, requiring significant effort and resources.

Integrating OpenTelemetry into existing systems, managing instrumentation, configuring the OpenTelemetry Collector, and maintaining the overall observability infrastructure can be time-consuming and resource-intensive.

Despite these challenges, OpenTelemetry remains a valuable tool for enhancing observability in modern application environments.

The Last Words

In summary, the OpenObserve RUM plugin provides a simple and powerful way to monitor your front-end application's performance and user experience.

By tracking key metrics and sending the data to the OpenObserve observability platform, you can quickly identify and resolve issues, optimize performance, and deliver a better user experience.

Get started for free with OpenObserve.



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