Boosting Business Performance With OpenTelemetry: A Comprehensive Overview

In today’s ever-faster-paced world of modern business, the competitive edge of high-performance applications cannot be overstated. Whether you have an e-commerce platform that handles thousands of transactions per minute or a cloud-based service relied upon by millions of users, the success of your business often hinges on the performance, reliability and user experience of your applications.

This is where observability comes into play: By implementing tools that show you what’s going on in your environment, you’re able to pinpoint exactly where problematic behavior is occurring, be alerted to abnormal latency, and more. It is especially challenging for cloud-native, distributed applications with multiple APIs, built using microservices that are more complex to monitor and track.  In this post, we’re going to focus on OpenTelemetry (OTel) and how it offers your business a comprehensive solution for enhancing observability and driving better outcomes.

What is OpenTelemetry?

OpenTelemetry is an open source observability framework designed to collect, process and export telemetry data (metrics, logs and traces) from your applications. It focuses on providing an open standard for application instrumentation across various languages and frameworks; it does not include a backend or data storage, so you’ll still need to forward your data to a vendor to analyze and query your telemetry data. However, this means you have freedom from vendor lock-in, allowing you to instrument once and easily change where your data goes.

OpenTelemetry is compatible with popular observability tools such as Prometheus and FluentBit, and you can also use it to monitor parts of your infrastructure as well. By integrating OpenTelemetry into your cloud-native codebase, you’ll gain deep insights into how your applications are behaving and performing, enabling you to identify and resolve issues quickly.

Improving Application Performance

Instrumenting your code with OpenTelemetry helps you gather performance metrics from your apps, such as response times, error rates, and resource utilization. When you have access to this data, you can pinpoint performance bottlenecks, optimize critical components, and ensure that your applications can handle increasing loads without degradation.

Let’s say you have a web app that experiences intermittent slowdowns during peak usage hours.

By leveraging OpenTelemetry, you can trace the execution path of each request, identify the root cause of the slowdowns (such as database queries or network latency) and take proactive measures to optimize performance. This not only improves your user experience but also enhances the overall efficiency of your business’s operations.

Enhancing Reliability and Stability

It’s not enough to have a responsive app; you also need it to be reliable and stable. By collecting and analyzing application telemetry, you can gain insights into error patterns, exceptions and system failures, allowing you to proactively address issues before they escalate into major outages.

For instance, what if one of your microservices starts experiencing intermittent failures?

If you have OpenTelemetry implemented in your stack, you’ll be able to trace requests across service boundaries, identify the failing component and troubleshoot the issue promptly. This minimizes downtime and helps ensure uninterrupted service for your users.

Understanding Infrastructure Health

Another part of ensuring your app is available is understanding the health of its underlying infrastructure. OpenTelemetry can help with this, too–by employing OTel components such as the host metrics receiver and Kubernetes processors, you can gather metrics about your hosts and Kubernetes clusters. Having insights into how your infrastructure is performing allows you to proactively address issues before they escalate into major outages.

Improving User Experience With OpenTelemetry

You also need insight into the actual user experience itself in order to retain customers and drive growth. How long does a page take to load? If it’s longer than expected, which page components are causing the delay? How frequently are your customers able to purchase an item or log into their accounts successfully?

At this time, client instrumentation for the browser is experimental. There is a proposal to support real user monitoring (RUM) events as its own signal, and there are some capabilities that exist today with the OTel JavaScript agent. The following session was presented at KubeCon NA 2023 and provides a lot of great information: A Practical Guide to Debugging Browser Performance with OpenTelemetry. If you are interested in contributing, get in touch with the Client Instrumentation SIG via the #otel-client-side-telemetry channel in CNCF’s Slack instance.

Enabling Informed Decision-Making

What happens when you have all this real-time data that’s generated by your OpenTelemetry instrumentation? You are empowered to make better-informed decisions. You’ll have a holistic view of your applications’ health and performance and be able to identify issues and trends, and be able to monitor its underlying infrastructure and allocate resources effectively.

For example, you can make use of your OpenTelemetry data to correlate dips in application response time to your error rate and also see whether throughput was impacted or even a potential factor.

If you have a new feature or bug fix you’ve just rolled out, you can assess its impact on your app performance and reliability, identify any potential risks or bottlenecks and make informed decisions about a new feature’s rollout strategy.

Driving Business Outcomes

All of the above means that you can use OpenTelemetry to translate data from your apps into tangible improvements in business outcomes. By using that telemetry to optimize application performance, enhance reliability and improve your user experience, you can increase customer satisfaction, reduce churn and achieve better financial results.

If you’re running an e-commerce platform, chances are you need your checkout process to run smoothly to not lose out on sales. You could set alerts on your data and be notified when an issue arises, and be able to drill down into the problem and fix it right away. You could also, even prior to that, use the insights gained from OTel instrumentation to optimize your checkout process, which can help drive and increase sales and revenue.


Maturity and stability levels still vary across different languages and signals, but there are many organizations already using OpenTelemetry in production and more teams who are migrating from proprietary solutions. By leveraging this open source framework, you can make better-informed decisions, increase customer satisfaction and, ultimately, drive improved business outcomes. As the demands of modern applications continue to evolve, you may find that embracing OpenTelemetry could boost your business performance. To get started, find your language here and follow the examples.

To hear more about cloud-native topics, join the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Techstrong Group and the entire cloud-native community in Paris, France at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2024 – March 19-22, 2024.

Reese Lee

Reese Lee is a Senior Developer Relations Engineer at New Relic, where she is focused on enabling customers and colleagues on OSS via workshops, blog posts, and documentation. She enjoys figuring out solutions to technical problems, learning about interesting user stories and use cases, and creating a productive environment for people to learn new technologies. She co-leads the OpenTelemetry End User Working Group, and has delivered several talks on various aspects of OpenTelemetry.

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