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Observability / Open Source

Opening up: OpenTelemetry for Greenfield Environments 

It gives developers the libraries and documentation they need for visibility into their applications' performance — data that is foundational to observability.
Oct 14th, 2022 9:35am by
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As technologists, we often become overwhelmed by the latest technologies, all with guarantees to make your environment harder, better, faster and stronger. While those promises may sound great on paper, often only the most robust operations can afford the time, let alone the costs, to implement the latest and greatest tooling.

Observability is one area where the benefits are obvious, but the costs might not be. For many operations, the need for a lean, technical stack makes implementing any new technology, such as observability, a “nice to have.” Balancing this with the potential benefits to your organization is the true challenge. Luckily, an open source (with active support) tool has emerged to give you the best foundation for observability in terms of flexibility, feature set and, of course, price. Its name is OpenTelemetry.

What Is OpenTelemetry?

OpenTelemetry is a highly active Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) project, the second most active, in fact. It gives developers the libraries and documentation they need to have their applications emit data needed for visibility into their performance — specifically metrics, traces and logs, with more on the way. This data is foundational to observability — the ability to determine what’s happening and where in a complex, distributed application.

Two points of focus here: The support of CNCF puts OpenTelemetry in the same group as “little side projects” like Kubernetes in terms of active development, along with wide support from the most respected vendors in observability, including Splunk, LightStep, Dynatrace and New Relic. This support allows for greater peace of mind in implementing OpenTelemetry by both ensuring that it has the flexibility to support your architecture, no matter how complex, and the wide vendor support allows for long-term planning to decide the best fit for your team’s observability tooling needs in the future.

Why OpenTelemetry Is for You

As great as OpenTelemetry sounds, as developers we still need to vet the direct benefits in our environment, the possible indirect benefits that adding OpenTelemetry instrumentation unlocks, like more reliable applications and better cross-team collaboration, and we need to make sure that implementing OpenTelemetry will help us avoid future technical debt.

Deciding on such fundamental elements has a great impact on how your application can mature. As you grow, you’ll need to make several decisions such as choosing a public cloud provider and how to build your development pipeline. Having OpenTelemetry as a pillar in your application development ensures that you are using industry-standard technology from the start, with a proven track record to handle the scale and complexity of ever-expanding applications.

Using OpenTelemetry early on lets you continue to operate your application no matter what decisions you make about cloud providers, development pipelines and the like. Especially as your operations grow, OpenTelemetry will better align your team by letting you analyze and use the same data in new and robust ways, enabling more robust collaboration in development and faster, more accurate troubleshooting.

How to OpenTelemetry

So how are you able to implement and take advantage of it at a human cost that makes sense? One of the best parts of OpenTelemetry is that it does not require refactoring your entire environment. You can start with instrumenting a single application. This can be done with either the standard distribution of OpenTelemetry or a vendor-specific distribution as you see fit.

From there, instrumentation can be done essentially automagically for many applications, such as most Java ones, or you can find more detailed information on how to begin within the documentation.

OpenTelemetry grants you the tools you need to better build applications today, and the framework needed for success over time. Get started today for free to see why it has become such an industry force and to prepare your application for many happy observable years.

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