Traces are one of the three pillars of Observability, along with logs and metrics. Observability is a collection of plugins that can visualize data and help you understand better any information they may offer. In this article we will talk about tracing and its benefits regarding log management.
What is Tracing and How it Works
Tracing is the ability to follow a request through a system, viewing the activity between all the individual system calls that take place to service a particular request. The purpose of tracing is to follow a program’s flow and data progression in order to detect possible problems.
Traces use a unique identifier for each piece of data. This identifier travels with the data, allowing for tracking its lifecycle as it travels through microservices. When a trace is started, a parent span (operation representation) is generated to encapsulate and represent the entire transaction. If a transaction is composed of different operations, a span is created for each of them (child spans). If these operations break down even more, additional spans are created (grandchild spans).
Each of these spans records the time of the operation and other useful attributes in order to identify every request and process that took place, the time each of them took and the order in which they occurred.
Benefits of Tracing
Tracing enables you to follow the path of an activity from beginning to end. It can map the flow of a request even across network boundaries. As a result, you are able to identify when a performance issue occurred or which operation was the source of this issue. This process makes the detection of anomalies much quicker than it would be if it had to be done manually.
Since tracing can record how much time each operation takes, it can be very useful when identifying dependencies or performance bottlenecks. If it is determined that a process takes more time than it should, it is worth checking if dependencies on other services have anything to do with the latency.
Another way tracing can contribute to a company’s systems management is by offering it visibility about how an application works. Many employees don’t know exactly how some applications work and what operations they perform when running. Subsequently, if they make any changes to them, this may result in wrong configuration and new performance issues.
To conclude, tracing is an important part of observability and a very useful tool for log management. With its help, a company can trace system transactions and detect any performance issues from the moment of its occurrence. It can also help with decisions regarding changes to applications and the better understanding of how these applications work.
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