OpenTelemetry, Open Collaboration
July 20, 2020

Dave McAllister

OpenTelemetry — the merger of OpenCensus and OpenTracing — appeared in May of 2019. OpenTelemetry is a project within the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) that has gathered contributors and supporters far and wide, becoming one of the most active projects found in open source today. It's currently #2 behind only Kubernetes!

So what is OpenTelemetry?

From the website: “OpenTelemetry provides a single set of APIs, libraries, agents, and collector services to capture distributed traces and metrics from your application.” Given the increasingly complex nature of applications and computing environments as companies progress in their cloud-native journey, and the corresponding need for better visibility — or observability — in production environments, this is pretty important. After all, proprietary, heavy agents are quickly fading into the sunset, with developers and DevOps teams clearly opting for open, flexible instrumentation 

In fact, the collaboration that OpenTelemetry has developed is pretty amazing. Looking at the data from CNCF's Devstats, we can find that over 130 companies including cloud providers, monitoring and observability vendors, and end-users, are shown as having made contributions to the project over the last quarter. And, as open-source goes, 26,000+ contributions is substantial for any project, reflecting in the definite importance of this technology.

The 28-day moving average (also from CNCF) shows that this is an active project, with 62 companies and 322 developers contributing to the project, as of July 8, 2020.

This is pretty amazing, since, while every contribution is valuable, deep looks into open source projects have previously indicated that the majority of the work is driven by 1-3 entities. (This may be changing, as a survey by The New Stack and Tidelift show that 84% of polled developers say they contribute to open source projects actively.) And the contributions are across many different areas: collectors, languages, specifications, and more.

The strength of such widespread involvement means that OpenTelemetry is becoming the defacto standard for observability data. With the recent advancement of the logging specification, OpenTelemetry is clearly the leader in targeting the pillars of observability data, namely metrics, traces, and logs. And with its acceptance of OpenTelemetry Enhancement Proposals (OTEP), it is likely to continue to expand in the future.

OpenTelemetry provides a vendor-agnostic collection mechanism for data, allowing you to choose the right observability tools for your needs. Instrumentation and data collection need to become a commodity. In many ways, data acquisition can be the new lock-in, being tied directly to a specific back end application for the analysis of said data. By removing the barriers of data acquisition and ingest, OpenTelemetry enables choice, your choice of the right technology without limitations, and the ability to freely move to the best technology.

Even more important is the breaking down of those artificially created silos that require moving from tool to tool manually, often requiring the repetition of forensic steps to determine underlying causes.

OpenTelemetry is more than a bandwagon — it's a dynasty. As OpenTelemetry moves forward in its own pathway to software dominance, it's going to accelerate the ability of DevOps teams to implement robust observability and deliver amazing results with cloud-native applications at a time when digital experiences via mobile and web apps are more important than ever.

Dave McAllister is a Sr. Technical Evangelist at Splunk
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