February 11, 2019

Performance Monitoring with OpenTracing, OpenCensus, and OpenMetrics

If you are familiar with instrumenting applications, you may have heard of OpenMetrics, OpenTracing, and OpenCensus. These projects aim to create standards for application performance monitoring and collecting metric data. Although the projects do overlap in terms of their goals, they each take a different approach to observability and instrumentation. In this post, we’ll provide an introduction to all three projects, along with some key differentiators of each, and how they best support application monitoring.

Key project differences

OpenMetrics aims to create a standard format for exposing metric data, while OpenTracing and OpenCensus focus on creating a standard for distributed tracing. Because the OpenCensus and OpenTracing projects share similar goals, there is a lot of overlap with their tracing APIs. They both employ a standard for tracking requests across process boundaries so you can visualize all the operations (e.g., database calls, caching) that go into fulfilling individual requests. This enables you to monitor application performance with one of the several backends (e.g., Datadog, Zipkin) that OpenTracing or OpenCensus supports.

OpenCensus is a part of the Google Open Source community, and OpenTracing and OpenMetrics are Cloud Native Computing Foundation(CNCF) projects. The OpenCensus and OpenTracing projects use similar mechanisms, though they refer to them in different terms:

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