What is Distributed Tracing, and Why Should you Care About it?

A presentation at All Things Open in in Raleigh, NC, USA by Ricardo Ferreira

Let’s face it: most people talking about o11y (observability) all end up talking about distributed tracing somehow. It is a technology that is radically changing the way we identify and solve technical problems. In a world where virtually all applications are born distributed — it seems to be something that you as an SRE ought to know in more detail.

This talk will provide a pragmatic overview of distributed tracing by clearly articulating its motivation, problems it solves, the challenges, technologies you should use to ensure a vendor-agnostic implementation, and which aspects you should consider while picking an o11y backend.

While discussing the challenges, this talk will highlight white-box versus black-box instrumentation, which is valuable knowledge to determine where the developer’s responsibility finishes and when the Ops team starts, and — when both team’s responsibilities may entangle.



The following code examples from the presentation can be tried out live.

  • OpenTelemetry in Java with Elastic Observability

    This project showcase how to instrument a microservice written in Java using OpenTelemetry, to produce telemetry data (traces and metrics) to Elastic Observability.

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