Distributed tracing, what is it?
Using distributed tracing, a user can monitor how application requests are flowing from a front-end device to a backend service. Developers can troubleshoot latency issues or errors by utilizing distributed tracing.
Need of distributed tracing
In a recent new relic e-book titled “quick introduction to distributed tracing”, In addition to increasing velocity and decreasing friction associated with software development, new technologies and practices—cloud, microservices, containers, serverless functions, DevOps, site reliability engineering (SRE), and others—also bring new challenges:
- A larger number of failure points within the application stack
- Complicated application environment increases mean time to resolution (MTTR)
- More time is required to diagnose problems, which leads to less time to innovate
The distributed tracing tool allows teams to understand the performance of microservices. This allows them to resolve issues quickly, increase customer satisfaction, maintain revenue, and leave their IT staff with more time to innovate. By maximizing the benefits that modern application environments provide while minimizing the challenges they may also present, businesses can fully reap the benefits of modern web-based applications.
Distributed tracing: How it works
According to the datadoghq article titled “distributed tracing overview”, the distributed tracing works in the following manner. A monolithic application or a microservice may be built. Typically, monolithic applications are designed as a single functionally oriented component. It is a method of decomposing an application into modules, each of which is responsible for processing one or more core functions of the application and is usually managed by a dedicated team.
A lot of modern applications are built with microservices because they enable easy testing and deployment of updates and are designed to prevent single points of failure. Microservices, however, can be difficult to troubleshoot as they run on distributed back ends and may involve multiple requests made to multiple services. To pinpoint performance problems or bottlenecks, end-to-end distributed tracing provides developers with a complete view of a request’s journey.
The moment a request is initiated, for example, by filling out a form on a website, end-to-end distributed tracing platforms begin collecting data. A unique trace ID is created along with a parent span in the trace platform in response to this action. During the journey of execution, a trace shows each span as a single step, including API calls and database queries.
A top-level child span is generated whenever anapplication enters a service. In cases where a request made more than one command or query within the same service, the top-level child span may act as a parent to other child spans nesting below it. In distributed tracing platforms, each child span has a unique span ID, duration, and error information, and relevant metadata, such as the customer’s ID and location.
A flame graph visualizes the spans, with the parent span at the top, followed by child spans nested in order of occurrence. Engineers can prioritize their troubleshooting efforts by observing the length of time the request is spent in each service or database since each span is timed. The flame graph can also be used by developers to identify which calls were problematic.
Benefits of distributed tracing
Tracing distributed applications can help teams find and resolve performance issues more quickly, often before users are aware of a problem.
When an issue is discovered, the organization can quickly identify its root cause and resolve it. It can also identify performance bottlenecks anywhere in the software stack, as well as identify code that needs to be optimized and provide early warnings when microservices are in poor health.
Additionally, observability can improve the organization’s ability to comply with service level agreements (SLAs) and maintain a high-quality user experience. The business maintains a steady flow of revenue and minimizes the potential impact on the bottom line.
It also helps improve collaboration and communication among teams, since distributed tracing pinpoints precisely where problems lie. This improves the working relationships needed for timely troubleshooting and for delivering innovations that increase business value. Consequently, new products and services can be introduced to the market much faster, giving organizations a competitive advantage.
According to the new relice-book titled “A Quick Introduction to distributed tracing”, the four key benefits of distributed tracing are listed below
- The ability to understand distributed systems’ behavior is enhanced drastically by distributed tracing, which radically improves developer productivity. It’s easy to learn how to use distributed tracing tools, and they can significantly reduce the amount of time you and your team spend debugging issues.
- Tracing over diverse applications, languages, and transports is supported by distributed tracing
- The ability to immediately see in real-time how updates, rollouts, and feature upgrades impact an application is another benefit of distributed tracing.
- It facilitates excellent cross-team communication and collaboration most of all when distributed tracing is used. As a result, developers can quickly locate and fix errors as a result of eliminating expensive data silos.