A Guide to OpenTelemetry - Part 5: The Challenges
October 24, 2022

Pete Goldin

Share this

While OpenTelemetry offers many advantages, the experts point out several challenges as well.

Start with: A Guide to OpenTelemetry - Part 1

Start with: A Guide to OpenTelemetry - Part 2: When Will OTel Be Ready?

Start with: A Guide to OpenTelemetry - Part 3: The Advantages

Start with: A Guide to OpenTelemetry - Part 4: The Results

The Project is Not Mature

Maybe the greatest challenge for OpenTelemetry is that the project is not mature. While the tracing component is fairly well advanced, the metrics and logging parts are still being formed.

"Currently, the project is not mature enough to support every stack, language, and signal," says Michael Haberman, CTO and Co-Founder of Aspecto. "While we believe it'll get there, the road to full stability is long."

"OpenTelemetry remains a young project in many ways, and many components are still in alpha or beta," explains Austin Parker, Head of Developer Relations at Lightstep by ServiceNow. "There is still work being done to bring in new signals such as profiling, logging, or real user monitoring (RUM), and breaking changes in those signals can be frequent."

"Logs and metrics are slowly catching up, but the API is still unstable which can be an issue," adds Vladimir Mihailenco, Co-Founder of Uptrace. "Logs and metrics are not stable yet so using them is more bumpy and requires some involvement with OpenTelemetry development and reading various changelogs."

Varying Quality

"While the existing OpenTelemetry libraries are already viable for manual and automatic instrumentation, which is a key part of any observability solution, it varies in quality," says Daniel Khan, Director of Product Management (Telemetry) at Sentry. "With new versions of libraries being released almost daily, it is up to the Open Source community to reverse engineer and adapt the instrumentation for every new version. This is not sustainable. Now is the time when library and framework maintainers have to start adding OpenTelemetry to their code. If this doesn't happen, the production use-case for OpenTelemetry will stay rather limited."

"The maturity of documentation, specification, libraries, and collector varies. One's experience might be very different depending on what they want to achieve," Marcin "Perk" Stożek, Software Engineering Manager of Open Source Collection, Sumo Logic, adds.


"OpenTelemetry is developing at a fast rate, and the instrumentation is rapidly changing. This can lead to frustrating bugs at times. But the community is actively taking steps to address concerns around instrumentation stability," says Pranay Prateek, Co-Founder of SigNoz.

Does Not Provide Backend Storage, Analysis or Visualization

Another important challenge to be aware of: OpenTelemetry does not provide any backend storage, analysis or visualization, so to gain full value of the project you need to implement these components on your own or with the help of a service provider.

"Without the proper tools and integrations, it can be challenging to make sense of what the data OpenTelemetry uncovers, and what was meant to provide visibility into IT performance and availability could actually end up creating more data noise instead," says Joe Byrne, VP of Technology Strategy and Executive CTO at Cisco AppDynamics.

Requires Large-Scale Initiative

To truly adopt OpenTelemetry requires a large-scale effort by an organization.

"Users will have to replace some of their existing toolchains of telemetry collection (especially for logs and metrics)," Haberman of Aspecto points out. "It will require quite a lot of effort, and usually, companies are not excited to make this large-scale shift."

"Migrating from current proprietary collection technologies to OpenTelemtry is non trivial for any large customer," adds Nitin Navare, CTO of LogicMonitor.

Difficult to Manage at Scale

"As OpenTelemetry evolves, it will become more complex and challenging to configure and manage at scale," warns Jonah Kowall, CTO of Logz.io.

Alois Reitbauer, Chief Product Officer at Dynatrace, agrees: "The challenge will be managing large-scale OpenTelemetry rollouts and monitoring their health."

Hard to Learn

"OpenTelemetry can be challenging for new developers to learn, as documentation gaps still exist due to the rapid pace of development," says Parker of Lightstep.

"Implementing OpenTelemetry across every part of the system requires deep knowledge and has a high entry point effort," adds Haberman of Aspecto. "This forces users to fully understand how OTel works and get involved in the project's updates. Though, as the project matures and the amount and quality of resources grows, adoption will get easier."

Martin Thwaites, Developer Advocate at Honeycomb, explains further: "At first glance, OpenTelemetry can be challenging to get started with, especially for certain languages that don't provide documentation for orchestration. However, even with this, early adopters were more than willing to dig deep and make it work. Therefore as focus on documentation becomes a priority, this barrier will quickly be eliminated. And, as adoption grows into the early majority and beyond, this will be more important to new users looking to come on board."

"Furthermore, looking deeper at the various language and framework SDKs are doing, it becomes harder to understand," he continues. "Providing more 'easy mode' integrations like the Agents and Kubernetes Operators will be essential to broader adoption. This will ease the issue of sampling or managing high data volume."

Developer Priorities

"It's important to consider that observability is not the fundamental goal when developing new software," explains Sajai Krishnan, General Manager, Observability, Elastic. "A software developer's primary goal may be to make the application or library they are building meet key business requirements or reduce the risk of impacting the performance of their code. Implementing observability may not be a primary goal, as developers carry on with familiar logging as has been done for decades, which could hurt the broad adoption of OpenTelemetry."

Download the 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for APM and Observability

Lack of Commercial Support

As with any open source solution, tech support and upgrades could be an issue for users of OpenTelemetry because it is not backed by a commercial vendor.

Vendor Enhancements

"There is also the risk that the standardization and vendor neutrality benefits of OpenTelemetry are lost by vendor enhancements beyond the standard features in their downstream distribution," says Krishnan at Elastic.

Check back tomorrow for A Guide to OpenTelemetry Part 6, covering the relationship between OpenTelemetry and APM.
Go to: A Guide to OpenTelemetry — Part 6: OTel and APM

Pete Goldin is Editor and Publisher of APMdigest
Share this

The Latest

March 27, 2023

To achieve maximum availability, IT leaders must employ domain-agnostic solutions that identify and escalate issues across all telemetry points. These technologies, which we refer to as Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations, create convergence — in other words, they provide IT and DevOps teams with the full picture of event management and downtime ...

March 23, 2023

APMdigest and leading IT research firm Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) are partnering to bring you the EMA-APMdigest Podcast, a new podcast focused on the latest technologies impacting IT Operations. In Episode 2 - Part 1 Pete Goldin, Editor and Publisher of APMdigest, discusses Network Observability with Shamus McGillicuddy, Vice President of Research, Network Infrastructure and Operations, at EMA ...

March 22, 2023

CIOs have stepped into the role of digital leader and strategic advisor, according to the 2023 Global CIO Survey from Logicalis ...

March 21, 2023

Synthetic monitoring is crucial to deploy code with confidence as catching bugs with E2E tests on staging is becoming increasingly difficult. It isn't trivial to provide realistic staging systems, especially because today's apps are intertwined with many third-party APIs ...

March 20, 2023

Recent EMA field research found that ServiceOps is either an active effort or a formal initiative in 78% of the organizations represented by a global panel of 400+ IT leaders. It is relatively early but gaining momentum across industries and organizations of all sizes globally ...

March 16, 2023

Managing availability and performance within SAP environments has long been a challenge for IT teams. But as IT environments grow more complex and dynamic, and the speed of innovation in almost every industry continues to accelerate, this situation is becoming a whole lot worse ...

March 15, 2023

Harnessing the power of network-derived intelligence and insights is critical in detecting today's increasingly sophisticated security threats across hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructure, according to a new research study from IDC ...

March 14, 2023

Recent research suggests that many organizations are paying for more software than they need. If organizations are looking to reduce IT spend, leaders should take a closer look at the tools being offered to employees, as not all software is essential ...

March 13, 2023

Organizations are challenged by tool sprawl and data source overload, according to the Grafana Labs Observability Survey 2023, with 52% of respondents reporting that their companies use 6 or more observability tools, including 11% that use 16 or more.

March 09, 2023

An array of tools purport to maintain availability — the trick is sorting through the noise to find the right one. Let us discuss why availability is so important and then unpack the ROI of deploying Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps) during an economic downturn ...