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Observability / Serverless

Lightstep’s OpenTelemetry Extension Helps Make Lambda Telemetry Data More Accessible

Dec 7th, 2020 3:00am by
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Distributed tracing provider Lightstep has released an extension to the OpenTelemetry project designed to help improve Lambda serverless observability.

With Lightstep’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda Extension to the OpenTelemetry project, developers have faster and simplified access to gain insights into their serverless’ applications performance in order to, among other things, detect bugs.

The extension’s binary works concurrently with and is embedded in the Lambda runtime as functions are run. Following the compiling of the code, the extension is made available as a Lambda layer and is immediately accessible. The telemetry data can also be published and distributed with AWS tools, according to Lightstep.

“OpenTelemetry is a loosely-coupled set of APIs, SDK and infrastructure, but integrations with complex technical platforms like Lambda require careful coding and effort,” Ben Sigelman, CEO and co-founder of Lightstep and co-creator of the OpenTelemetry project, said. “This contribution allows any Lambda user to take easy advantage of OpenTelemetry for their serverless deployment without building that integration on top of the raw OpenTelemetry APIs themselves.”

One of the main challenges the extension was designed to solve was how to collect telemetry data from ultra-rapid and stateless serverless functionality.

According to Datadog’s  “The State of Serverless” report, the median time for an AWS Lambda functionality to complete is 800 milliseconds, while one-third of the functionalities run in 400 milliseconds. While Lamda’s timeouts range from one second to 15 minutes, two-thirds of the duration of Lambda timeouts are less than one minute, according to the report.

As often experienced, extremely short runtimes in Lambda significantly limit telemetry data transfer and access. The main feature of Lightstep’s OpenTelemetry extension for Lambda is to thus enable organizations to collect and process ephemeral data through telemetry in ways they were previously unable to do.

“Since Lambda functions are ephemeral, it’s challenging to get telemetry data out of the Lambda function efficiently before it disappears altogether. Various vendors have special-cased Lambda instrumentation, but those integrations come at the cost of explicit vendor lock-in,” Sigelman said. “DevOps want Lambda telemetry with no overhead and no vendor lock-in, and with this open source OpenTelemetry contribution from Lightstep, they finally have it: a single integration that works with any OpenTelemetry-compatible observability provider.”

The “vendor-neutral” approach with Lightstep’s extension for OpenTelemetry is also key since the OpenTelemetry project, managed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, was created to provide a framework to help organizations avoid vendor lock-in when adopting observability tools. In this way, OpenTelemetry offers vendor-neutral integration that helps organizations obtain the raw materials — the “telemetry” — that support observability tools. Consisting of APIs, specifications, SDK and infrastructure components, OpenTelemetry also allows for backend access to telemetry data without having to install additional software or instrument new code when using a tool from a new vendor.

The use of OpenTelemetry framework and Lightstep’s extension of it for Lambda, also supports interoperability of different observability tools that an organization might adopt. These might include the tracing tools from Lightstep and observability platforms Datadog, Honeycomb and New Relic provide.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), Honeycomb, Lightstep and New Relic are sponsors of The New Stack.

Feature image via Pixabay.

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: The New Stack.
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