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OpenTelemetry: Enhancing Observability in Modern Computing

OpenTelemetry is an observability framework and toolkit designed to create and manage telemetry data, including traces, metrics, and logs. It is vendor- and tool-agnostic, allowing it to be used with various observability backends such as Jaeger and Prometheus, as well as commercial offerings. OpenTelemetry is a project under the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

Major Components

OpenTelemetry consists of the following major components:

  • A specification that defines the components
  • A standard protocol for telemetry data
  • Semantic conventions for standard naming schemes
  • APIs for generating telemetry data
  • A library ecosystem that provides instrumentation for common libraries and frameworks
  • Automatic instrumentation components that generate telemetry data without code changes
  • Language SDKs that implement the specification, APIs, and telemetry data export
  • The OpenTelemetry Collector, a proxy for receiving, processing, and exporting telemetry data
  • Various other tools, such as the OpenTelemetry Operator for Kubernetes, OpenTelemetry Helm Charts, and community assets for FaaS

OpenTelemetry supports a wide range of ecosystem integrations.

The project is supported by 40+ vendors who provide commercial support and contribute directly to the project.


OpenTelemetry is designed to be extensible. Users can add custom receivers to the OpenTelemetry Collector, load custom instrumentation into an SDK, create tailored distributions of an SDK or the Collector, develop new exporters for custom backends, and create custom propagators for nonstandard context propagation formats.

Why OpenTelemetry?

Observability is crucial in the era of cloud computing, microservices architectures, and complex business requirements. OpenTelemetry allows you to own the data you generate and learn a single set of APIs and conventions, providing the flexibility needed in modern computing.


OpenTelemetry is the result of merging two prior projects, OpenTracing and OpenCensus. Both projects aimed to solve the lack of a standard for instrumenting code and sending telemetry data to observability backends. The merger combined the strengths of both projects, resulting in OpenTelemetry as a single standard.

What OpenTelemetry is not

OpenTelemetry is not an observability backend like Jaeger, Prometheus, or commercial vendors. It focuses on generating, collecting, managing, and exporting telemetry data, while leaving the storage and visualization of data to other tools.


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