Project Journey Report
OpenTelemetry is a framework for collecting and delivering telemetry data for applications, services, and infrastructure. It provides vendor-neutral tools, APIs, and SDKs for ingesting, transforming, and sending data to an observability back-end, either open source or commercial.
Formed through the merger of OpenTracing and OpenCensus in 2019, OpenTelemetry addresses the challenges of debugging distributed, microservices-based architectures. Instrumentation and use of metrics, logging, and tracing software can become complicated in modern computing environments due to a lack of standards. OpenTelemetry solves these challenges by exporting data to open source or commercial observability back-ends through a standardized protocol. Its pluggable architecture allows other technology protocols and formats to be easily added.
OpenTelemetry entered the CNCF sandbox in 2019 and reached the incubation stage in August 2021.
This report assesses the state of the OpenTelemetry project and how CNCF has impacted its progress and growth. Alas we don’t have access to a multiverse to play out alternative scenarios, so it is impossible to sort out causation. However, we can document correlations. This report is part of a series of project journey reports published by CNCF.
NOTE: These statistics were collected with the DevStats tool, which CNCF built in collaboration with CNCF project communities. When we refer to “Contributor,” we mean somebody who made a review, commented, committed, created a PR or issue.
OpenTelemetry is set to become the backbone of the open source monitoring ecosystem. Because these are open standards, and open source SDKs and tools, OpenTelemetry enables vendor-neutral solutions. These solutions can be composed from the best tools in the industry, such as Prometheus. OpenTelemetry is a great example of a successful, community-driven open source project.
Department Head, Application Observability,
High-velocity open source projects like OpenTelemetry garner wide adoption and contributions from both vendor and end-user communities and since it joined the CNCF OpenTelemetry has grown to incorporate meaningful code contributions from more than 1000 organizations.
The diversity of vendor contributors has expanded over the years. In 2019, Google was the biggest contributor; Splunk, a relatively light contributor at the project’s start, is now the largest. Contributors to OpenTelemetry include many of the world’s largest tech companies, such as Google, Red Hat, Microsoft, Amazon, Cisco, Uber, and Facebook, as well as fast-growing organizations like Mailchimp and Mercari. Contributions also come from dozens of startups and small businesses, such as Lightstep and SumoLogic. Contributing organizations are well distributed between vendors and end users, demonstrating that end-user innovation can foster and sustain fast-growing, successful projects.
Diversity across company size & type (End User, Vendor, Foundation)
By the numbers:
These numbers indicate a healthy project dynamic — project originators and early joiners are continuing to contribute, with other organizations and individuals now coming onboard to share stewardship and grow the community.
OpenTelemetry is establishing itself as the industry standard to provide our customers the means to collect, process, and ingest traces, metrics, and (soon) logs in a vendor-neutral fashion. We see a lot of interest in OpenTelemetry and work upstream as well as in the service team to overcome the adoption hurdles.
Solution Engineering Lead at AWS,
Cumulative growth of OpenTelemetry contributions by company from Q2 2019-Q2 2023
Percentage breakdown of OpenTelemetry contributions by company from Q2 2019-Q2 2023
Cumulative number of companies contributing by quarter Q2 2019-Q2 2023
Cumulative growth in contributors by quarter Q2 2019-Q2 2023
Top Contributing Countries
Change in number of monthly contributors by country as a percentage of total Q2 2019-Q2 2023
Change in number of contributors by country Q2 2019-Q2 2023
Monthly velocity of OpenTelemetry
Having gained across several key velocity metrics since joining CNCF, OpenTelemetry is flourishing.
We track developer velocity with the following formula: velocity = commits + PRs + issues + authors. We also look at the growth of PRs, code commits, and issues filed as separate line charts. A third way to examine velocity is by looking at the cumulative number of contributors over time. The charts below illustrate rising velocity for OpenTelemetry.
Growth of OpenTelemetry pull requests, commits, issues, & authors over time Q2 2019-Q2 2023
The way OpenTelemetry has been able to bring together vendors and domain experts, while also incorporating smaller communities has been a great accomplishment. We are only at the beginning of how this will benefit those users of smaller languages who had fewer choices and much more to do themselves when incorporating into their, often, polyglot companies.
Senior Software Engineer at Splunk,
OpenTelemetry Erlang/Elixir Maintainer
Growth of community participation in education, events, and sponsorship is a reliable proxy for the health of a project.
The OpenTelemetry project actively participates in KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America, China, and Europe through various presentations and talks from community leaders. Since joining CNCF, the project has been the topic of countless talks and presentations across flagship CNCF and community events.
CNCF also hosts numerous community events, including OpenTelemetry Community Day, which has evolved into Observability Day, which bring together project maintainers, contributors, and end users for a slate of talks, discussion groups, and community roundtables focused on OpenTelemetry, open source, and observability.
In addition, OpenTelemetry maintainers are active in creating meaningful community engagement, including hosting events like OTel Uplugged – an unconference where in lieu of pre-planned talks, attendees decide the format and content of discussion groups on day.
Since joining CNCF, OpenTelemetry has been the topic of countless talks and presentations across flagship CNCF events and community-driven events.
Check out the presentations from Observability Day Europe 2023:
When OpenTelemetry joined CNCF in May 2019, we started promotional efforts to help sustain, nurture, and expand the project’s community.
These have included blog posts, email newsletter mentions, and social media support. Thanks in part to these efforts, public awareness of and interest in OpenTelemetry have grown quickly. Google Analytics data for OpenTelemetry show almost 40,000 page views since the project was contributed to CNCF.
The way that the community and vendors alike are focusing their efforts on standardization is a powerful force multiplier for the average developer. This broad consensus allows us to focus on doing useful things with telemetry rather than constantly reinventing the wheel with each new project. I’m excited to see what future innovations OpenTelemetry unlocks ﹘ I think it represents a real step forward for the industry.
Senior Staff Engineer, Observability, at Shopify
Robust documentation is critical to educating new users and helping existing users resolve problems and understand a project’s capabilities. Just as important are continuous additions to and improvements of project documentation.
OpenTelemetry documentation has significantly increased since joining CNCF:
NOTE: Documentation for Harbor is authored in .md files. CNCF uses the DevStats tool to automatically collect and count statistics of all relevant .md files in the Harbor repositories in GitHub.
Growth in participation in OpenTelemetry project documentation Q2 2019-Q2 2023
Cumulative growth of OpenTelemetry project documentation commits Q2 2019-Q2 2023
A basic premise behind CNCF, including KubeCon + CloudNativeCon, and open source in general, is that most interactions are positive-sum.
There is no fixed amount of investment, mindshare, or development contributions allocated to specific projects. Just as open source development is based on the idea that, collectively, we are smarter together than any one of us alone, open source foundations work to make the entire community better. Equally important, a neutral home for a project and community fosters this type of positive-sum thinking, and drives growth and diversity that we believe are core elements of a successful open source project.
We hope this report provides a useful portrait of how CNCF fosters and sustains the growth of OpenTelemetry.
OpenTelemetry allows us to become more independent of vendors, streamlines our observability story for our engineers, and simplifies the challenge of applying meaningful names and documentation to telemetry data. With OpenTelemetry, instead of special-casing code for specific environments, our engineers write the same code to emit telemetry data — regardless of the GitHub environment. The environment infrastructure itself understands how to process OpenTelemetry data and the constraints it lives under. That means privacy redaction for high security environments is automatically applied, as well as certain restrictions that apply to third-party vendors that provide observability tooling for us. Also, we have written OpenTelemetry wrapper libraries that add the GitHub opinion on top of OpenTelemetry, and we are now asking all engineers to adopt these libraries to unify our instrumentation.
Staff Engineering Manager at GitHub