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AppSignal's Future with OpenTelemetry

Connor James

Connor James on

AppSignal's Future with OpenTelemetry

AppSignal is a strong supporter of open-source technology. We owe so much of our modern world to the unseen, hard-working software developers who build and maintain the many technologies that make everything from reading this article to sending a message from your phone possible.

That's why we're investing in OpenTelemetry, the open-source standard for telemetry data collection, rather than developing our own independent standard.

What Is OpenTelemetry?

OpenTelemetry is an open standard. Open standards provide the building blocks needed to make applications more functional, portable, and interoperable.

You can think of open standards like charging cables. Not long ago, every device had its own charging port - but now, with the widespread adoption of USB C, you can charge many devices with a single cable without needing an adapter (we're looking at you, Apple).

For software developers, open standards are like USB C cables. They eliminate the need for adapters or reinventing the wheel, streamlining the development process. When open standards are widely adopted, they prevent knowledge silos and allow developers from a wide range of disciplines to collaborate on solutions.

OpenTelemetry facilitates the instrumentation of standardized telemetry data collection. Telemetry data provides insights into how various components of an application perform (such as an API request or function call). APMs like AppSignal use this data to give you insights into the performance of your application.

Because OpenTelemetry is open-source, you can all collaborate on the same base integrations to provide instrumentation for everyone's benefit. OpenTelemetry currently supports several popular programming languages, including Node.js. We'll offer support for OpenTelemetry when we launch Node 3.0 (that's soon to come - watch this space!).

How Does AppSignal Use Telemetry Data?

AppSignal is an APM (Application Performance Management) service. We consume and contextualize an application's telemetry data (including logs, metrics, events, and traces).

Architecture past

The diagram above shows how AppSignal consumes telemetry data using our custom-built integrations.

Our six powerful monitoring tools provide developers with clear and actionable application insights:

  • Error Tracking: Tracks exceptions and sends error alerts so you can debug and fix errors quickly.
  • Performance monitoring: Monitors the performance of an application's slowest actions down to the nanosecond.
  • Host monitoring: Server monitoring with CPU, Disk and Network data.
  • Anomaly detection: Allows you to set triggers for anomalies on any metric you'd like.
  • Metrics dashboard: Collects metrics from an application's code and charts them on dashboards.
  • Uptime monitoring: Sends real-time alerts when an application is down.
Error incidents

These tools empower developers to get things back on track when things go wayward. Let's say someone using your application is faced with an error screen when trying to add an item to their shopping cart. AppSignal alerts you, showing you what went wrong, where - and if it's occurred previously.

Why Is AppSignal Investing in OpenTelemetry?

AppSignal is small, mighty, and bootstrapped. By investing in OpenTelemetry, we can spend our limited resources on open-source collaboration and developing great new product features instead of reinventing the wheel.

OpenTelemetry streamlines our development process. We no longer have to build new integrations from scratch, meaning we can expand AppSignal to support additional languages and frameworks faster than previously possible.

It's not just APMs that benefit from adopting OpenTelemetry. OpenTelemetry helps customers avoid technical lock-in and gives them the portability they deserve. Customer loyalty should come from an amazing product supported by amazing customer service, not technical lock-in. We want to give our users flexibility and freedom of choice regarding their APM and challenge our larger competitors to do the same.

What's Next for AppSignal and OpenTelemetry?

On the top, a diagram of how AppSignal intends to instrument OpenTelemetry as a part of our integrations. Below that, a look toward a future where OpenTelemetry can handle all data collection needs.

Architecture future

We aim to use the OpenTelemetry standard when expanding our support to new programming languages and framework integrations.

Currently, this involves integrating OpenTelemetry into our instrumentations. In the future, OpenTelemetry should be able to replace such instrumentations, standardizing the entire process of telemetry data collection. This standardization will allow AppSignal to shift its focus from building and maintaining complex integrations to helping our customers get the most out of their application's telemetry data.

We don't rely on OpenTelemetry in our existing Ruby, Elixir, and front-end JavaScript integrations yet. However, in the future, we will look into how to add OpenTelemetry support to those integrations in a non-disruptive way.

As always, our belief in open source is unwavering, and we will champion OpenTelemetry as the standard for telemetry data collection 🏆.

Questions, Suggestions and Stroopwafels

Are you an open-source contributor or a digital do-gooder? We offer free AppSignal plans to open-source and for good projects.

If you've got any questions about how any of our integrations work, or you'd like to see something not already available on AppSignal, please do get in touch with us, we'd love to hear what you have to say! We provide developer-to-developer support and ship stroopwafels to trial users on request 😋 🍪

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Connor James

Connor James

Official technical writer at AppSignal. Podcast addict who loves cannoli so much that he's considering changing his name to Connoli. He thinks there's a `u` in color. You might find him on the mic, on the stage, or lying on the sofa when he's off Documentation Duty.

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AppSignal provides insights for Ruby, Rails, Elixir, Phoenix, Node.js, Express and many other frameworks and libraries. We are located in beautiful Amsterdam. We love stroopwafels. If you do too, let us know. We might send you some!

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