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What is Opentelemetry?

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Opentelemetry is a new framework, born through the merger of OpenCensus and OpenTracing, which aims to be all-in-one solution for all telementry needs.

OpenTelemetry is a collection of vendor-agnostic open-source tools, APIs and SDKs that aims to offer an all-in-one framework for the collection of telemetry data and distribution of it to observability platforms. 

It is an incubating project managed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), which also manages the Kubernetes framework, alongside a few other open source container technology frameworks. 

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OpenTelemtry is the result of a merger between two competing services, OpenCensus and OpenTracing. OpenCensus was operated by Google with contributions from Microsoft and others, while CNCF managed OpenTracing. As the best code from both frameworks was taken in the merger, OpenTelemtry is backwards compatible with the two antecedent frameworks. 

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One of OpenTelemetry’s key marketing points is the standardization of the collection and transmission of telemetry data to cloud-native platforms. Tracing, metrics and logs, considered the “three pillars of observability” are unified. This improves the portability of the data, especially as OpenTelemetry is supported by a wide range of cloud providers and vendors through its backward compatibility. 

Another plus for OpenTelemetry is the reduction in oversight and maintenance of the instrumentation, which is necessary for high quality telemetry data. This is achieved again through the standardization of languages and protocols, to ensure that data moves freely and is not divergent or siloed. 

As the framework is managed by the CNCF, there is a clear goal to make it as vendor-neutral as possible. This prevents vendor lock-in, where an organization may need to sign a contract or agree to terms that limits the value of their telemetry data, through lack of interoperability. This approach also allows organizations to add drop-in agents for monitoring and observation without fear of damaging the flow or voiding terms and conditions. 

To improve interoperability further, CNCF aim to decouple OpenTelemetry as much as possible. This lets end-users pick and choose the parts of the framework that appeal to their specific need, while also being able to discard unnecessary bits. Composable applications are considered one of the key strategic technology trends of 2022 according to Gartner, and providers who are able to properly decouple their assets are set to see better market performance and higher customer loyalty. 

The team behind OpenTelemetry are also focused on building high-quality telemetry into the entire software stack, instead of integrating it manually, which is the case for a lot of telemetry integration at the moment. 

OpenTelemetry is still in beta across several languages at the moment, but expects to be at general availability soon.

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David Curry

About David Curry

David is a technology writer with several years experience covering all aspects of IoT, from technology to networks to security.

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