Distributed Tracing, is the process of tracking a single service transaction along its journey through multiple services and components.
Distributed tracing plays a vital role in revealing what happens across service boundaries – pinpointing areas of slowness, identifying broken components, and guiding the resolution process through specific logs and metrics. It paints a comprehensive picture of an end-to-end request's journey, encompassing everything from mobile performance to database health. Before delving deeper, let's start with the fundamentals.
Distributed tracing is the process of observing requests as they pass through distributed systems. It is used as a diagnostic technique to gain insights into how a set of services works together to handle individual user requests. A single trace provides a snapshot of the activities related to a specific transaction or request within the monitored application, tracing its path from the browser or mobile device to the database and back. When aggregated, a collection of traces highlights the backend service or database that has the greatest impact on performance, directly affecting user experiences.
In distributed tracing, a trace consists of a sequence of tagged time intervals called "spans." Each span represents a discrete unit of work and has a start and end time. It may also include metadata such as logs or tags that describe the event. Spans are interconnected, forming parent-child relationships that reveal the specific path a transaction takes through the various services or components that make up the application.
Key components of distributed tracing:
The primary objective of distributed tracing is to offer a request-centric perspective. While microservices allow teams and services to operate independently, distributed tracing serves as a central resource, enabling all teams to comprehend issues from the user's viewpoint.
Modern software architectures like microservices and serverless offer benefits for application development, but they also come with a drawback of reduced visibility. While teams can more easily manage and monitor their individual services, they may lose track of how the entire system behaves. When a customer reports an issue with a transaction that involves multiple microservices, serverless functions, and teams, it can be challenging to pinpoint the service responsible for the problem.
Distributed tracing provides end-to-end visibility and reveals service dependencies, making it a valuable tool for understanding how different services interact during a transaction. By visualizing complete transactions, you can compare problematic traces with successful ones, identifying differences in behavior, structure, and timing. This information helps you understand the root cause of issues and quickly find performance bottlenecks in your systems. In other words, distributed tracing empowers you to gain valuable insights and make your applications more efficient and reliable.
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