What is OpenTracing?

OpenTracing is an open, vendor-neutral standard that defines an API for distributed tracing. In other words, it offers a way to track the status of requests. This approach lets you track requests across different systems in your IT infrastructure.

Consider a sophisticated online application in which a user request triggers operations across several servers, databases, and services. With OpenTracing, you can see your apps’ whole path. It facilitates locating performance bottlenecks, making error troubleshooting easier. It also provides information on app behavior.

Importance of OpenTracing in IT Infrastructure

Maintaining peak performance becomes increasingly tricky as IT systems become more sophisticated. OpenTracing provides numerous significant benefits:

  • Tracing requests throughout your system allows you to discover the cause of a mistake. This saves you time and effort when debugging.
  • OpenTracing data allows you to spot bottlenecks slowing down your applications. After identifying the regions, you may concentrate your optimization efforts there since they will produce the most substantial results.
  • OpenTracing allows you to monitor the overall health of your distributed system and provides a comprehensive understanding of its performance behavior.
  • OpenTracing’s open-standard nature provides interoperability with various tracing tools, allowing you to be more flexible with your monitoring arrangement.

Core Concepts of OpenTracing

OpenTracing specifies three fundamental ideas that, when combined, give a complete picture of request flow:


A span refers to a particular action or unit of labor inside a more significant request. It collects information such as the start and finish times, the operation’s name, and any related tags or logs.


A trace is a series of spans depicting a request’s whole lifespan. The request includes multiple distinct spans, each of which is a component of the graphic depicting the request’s whole path.

Context Propagation

OpenTracing allows context propagation. This entails transmitting tracing information alongside requests as they go between services. This guarantees that all spans in a trace are linked together, allowing you to recreate the complete flow.

Differences Between OpenTracing and OpenTelemetry

While OpenTracing focuses solely on distributed tracing, OpenTelemetry offers broader capabilities for monitoring your IT infrastructure. Here’s the key differences:

Feature OpenTracing OpenTelemetry
Scope Primarily focused on distributed tracing Supports tracing, metrics, and logs
Vendor Neutrality Vendor-neutral Vendor-neutral
Community Adoption Widely adopted Gaining traction, growing adoption
Maturity Established standard Evolving standard, under active development
APIs Separate APIs for different data types Unified API for all telemetry data
Context Propagation Limited options More flexible and robust options
Instrumentation Requires manual instrumentation Provides libraries and automatic instrumentation

Integrating with Web Frameworks (e.g., Express, Spring)

OpenTracing offers libraries for several common web frameworks, allowing you to add tracing features to your apps quickly. These integrations enable you to instrument your code to generate spans and propagate tracing context across the request’s lifecycle.

Integration with Databases (e.g., MongoDB, MySQL)

OpenTracing connectors, like web frameworks, are available for various database systems. These connectors allow you to record spans representing database interactions, which give information on how your application interacts with data storage.

Best Practices of OpenTracing

For successful deployment of OpenTracing, consider these recommended practices.

  • Begin by instrumenting a single service, then progressively expand tracing to additional components of your architecture.
  • Consistent naming of spans and tags improves the understandability of your tracing data.
  • Prioritize tracing requests that significantly impact user experience or application performance.
  • Use visualization tools to examine trace data and acquire essential insights regarding application activity.