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Monitoring Go apps with Distributed Tracing and OpenTelemetry

· 3 min read

What is tracing?

Distributed tracing allows to observe requests as they propagate through distributed systems, especially those built using a microservices architecture.

Tracing provides insights into your app performance along with any errors and logs. You immediately see what conditions cause errors and how particular error affects app performance.

Uptrace tracing tool

Using tracing, you can break down requests into spans. Span is an operation (unit of work) your app performs handling a request, for example, a database query or a network call.

Trace is a tree of spans that shows the path that a request makes through an app. Root span is the first span in a trace.

Uptrace tracing tool

To learn more about tracing, see Distributed tracing using OpenTelemetry.

What is OpenTelemetry?

OpenTelemetry is an open source and vendor-neutral API for distributed tracing (including logs and errors) and metrics.

It specifies how to collect and export telemetry data in a vendor agnostic way. With OpenTelemetry, you can instrument your application once and then add or change vendors without changing the instrumentation, for example, many open source tracing tools already support OpenTelemetry.

How to use OpenTelemetry?

OpenTelemetry is available for most programming languages and provides interoperability across different languages and environments.

You can get started with OpenTelemetry by following these 5 steps:

OpenTelemetry Go API

You can create spans using OpenTelemetry Go API like this:

import ""

var tracer = otel.Tracer("app_or_package_name")

func someFunc(ctx context.Context) error {
ctx, span := tracer.Start(ctx, "some-func")
defer span.End()

// the code you are measuring

return nil

You can also record attributes and errors:

func someFunc(ctx context.Context) error {
ctx, span := tracer.Start(ctx, "some-func")
defer span.End()

if span.IsRecording() {
attribute.Int64("", userID),
attribute.String("", userEmail),

if err := someOtherFunc(ctx); err != nil {
span.SetStatus(codes.Error, err.Error())

return nil

What is Uptrace?

Uptrace is an open source DataDog competitor with an intuitive query builder, rich dashboards, automatic alerts, and integrations for most languages and frameworks.

Uptrace accepts data from OpenTelemetry and stores it in a ClickHouse database. ClickHouse is a columnar database that is much more efficient for traces and logs than, for example, Elastic Search. On the same hardware, ClickHouse can store 10x more traces and, at the same time, provide much better performance.

You can install Uptrace by downloading a DEB/RPM package or a pre-compiled binary.

Uptrace tracing tool

What's next?

Next, you can continue exploring OpenTelemetry or start instrumenting your app using popular instrumentations: