Distributed Tracing

Data Processing
Updated on:
July 11, 2024

What is distributed tracing?

Distributed tracing refers to tracing, logging, and data analysis techniques used to track the flow of requests across distributed application ecosystems. Unique IDs are propagated to wire together multi-component logs for monitoring.

Distributed tracing provides observability into complex microservices environments by stitching together event logs to visualize end-to-end request flows across process boundaries.

Tools like Jaeger allow tracing requests spanning servers, networks, queues and other infrastructure. Logs are correlated via standardized trace context propagation.

For analytics systems built on technologies like Apache Arrow and Apache DataFusion, distributed tracing is invaluable for monitoring queries across clusters. It integrates well with columnar memory formats and incremental processing.

How does distributed tracing work?

Instrumentation added to apps generates correlation IDs for requests and propagates them in headers. Logs capture timing data and IDs across components. Agents collect and correlate the distributed logs to analyze workflows.

OpenTracing APIs and systems like Jaeger, Zipkin, Lightstep provide frameworks to instrument and trace multi-tier apps.

Why is distributed tracing important? Where is it used?

Distributed tracing offers critical visibility in modern complex microservices and cloud native environments where requests span many components. It helps identify performance issues and errors across interconnected systems.

Distributed tracing is used in monitoring large web services, cloud platforms, container orchestration systems and transactional apps requiring high availability.


How does distributed tracing differ from logging?

It correlates logs across components to trace flows rather than logging locally. This provides a unified view across system boundaries.

What are some key components of distributed tracing?

  • Instrumentation libraries to propagate context
  • Correlation ID generation
  • Agent for context propagation
  • Backend to collect, analyze traces

What are popular distributed tracing tools?

Common open source tools include Jaeger, Zipkin and OpenTelemetry. Managed services are offered by AWS X-Ray, DataDog, Lightstep etc.

What are some challenges with distributed tracing?

Challenges include overhead, data volumes, log correlation, lack of standards, proprietary platforms, and gaining insights from trace data.

## References:

Related Entries

Online Analytical Processing (OLAP)

Online analytical processing (OLAP) refers to the technology that enables complex multidimensional analytical queries on aggregated, historical data for business intelligence and reporting.

Incremental Processing

Incremental processing involves continuously processing and updating results as new data arrives, avoiding having to recompute results from scratch each time.

Apache Arrow DataFusion

Apache DataFusion is an extensible, high-performance data processing framework in Rust, designed to efficiently execute analytical queries on large datasets. It utilizes the Apache Arrow in-memory data format.


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