The Humans OpenTelemetry - KubeCon EU 2024

We’re back with our second edition of Humans of OpenTelemetry, this time from KubeCon EU in Paris. Once again, Reese Lee and I interviewed OpenTelemetry contributors and end users, and learned how they got involved with OTel:

Also, special thanks to:

  • Reese Lee, my co-interviewer
  • Henrik Rexed for providing the audio and video recording equipment, and doing the initial edits of the raw footage
  • Zhu Jiekun for assisting with his own camera

You can watch the full recording here:

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to OpenTelemetry to date, and we look forward to your continued contributions in 2024 and beyond! 🎉


If reading is more your thing, check out the transcript of our conversations below.

1- Meet the Humans of OTel

IRIS DYRMISHI: Well, I’m Iris Dyrmishi. I’m a senior observability engineer at Miro and my life, my professional life is all about observability. I build an observability platform that provides the tools for engineering teams at Miro to monitor, to observe and get the best of their applications.

SEVERIN NEUMANN: My name is Severin Neumann. I’m working at Cisco at the open source program office and I’m a member of the OpenTelemetry governance committee and I’m one of the co-maintainers of the OpenTelemetry documentation.

KAYLA REOPELLE: My name is Kayla Reopelle. I work for New Relic and I am contributing to the OpenTelemetry Ruby project.

MORGAN MCLEAN: My name is Morgan McLean,I’m a director of product management at Splunk.I’ve been with OpenTelemetry since day one. I’m one of the co-founders of the project. I’m on the governance committee. Wow. What do I work on within OTel?A bit of everything. I mean early on it was literally everything. Myself and Ted and various others were doing many, many jobs. More recently I was involved in the release of traces, metrics 1.0. Logs 1.0 last year. Right now I’m working on profiling as well as OpenTelemetry’s expansion into mainframe computing.

HENRIK REXED: My name is Henrik Rexed. I am a cloud native advocate at Dynatrace and I’m passionate about observability, performance, and I’m trying to help the community by providing content on getting started on any solutions out there.

VIJAY SAMUEL: My name is Vijay Samuel and I help do architecture for the observability platform at eBay.

DANIEL GOMEZ BLANCO: I’m Daniel Gomez Blanco. I’m a principal engineer at Skyscanner and also member of the OpenTelemetry governance committee.

DOUG ODEGAARD: My name is Doug Odegaard. I’m a senior solutions architect with ServiceNow Cloud Observability, which is also formerly Lightstep. I’m also a previous customer of using OpenTelemetry for several years prior to that.

ADNAN RAHIĆ: Hey, I am Adnan. I work at Tracetest as a developer advocate which is…you can guess better than me what that is. Pretty much do a bunch of everything regarding OpenTelemetry. I’m one of the contributors for the documentation, for the blog, and the demo.

RYNN MANCUSO: My name is Rynn Mancuso. I work for and I am one of the maintainers of the End User SIG.

2- What does observability mean to you?

IRIS DYRMISHI: What does observability mean to me? observability to me is the biggest passion of my life and also my professional career. It is one of those areas that you are not very interested when you start your career because you don’t know anything about it. It’s not taught in school, it’s not preached by the tech communities a lot, but then you discover it and say, “Wow, this is amazing!” We’re actually making a change and we’re helping the teams make the best of their product. So yeah, that’s all.

SEVERIN NEUMANN: I think observability is a big game changer, right? So it’s evolution from what we have done, especially APM, over the last few years. So I worked for a very long time at AppDynamics and we sold APM agents to customers and we gave them a lot of the things that observability is promising today as well. But the big change I see with observability that it’s coming down, let’s say to everybody, right? So this is making the things that we did there available for everybody. And even more, we’re moving away from this… Hey, let’s add a post compilation agent into your application to like, yeah, let’s make native observability. Let’s make this a thing that developers, that operation teams are using across all the organizations.

KAYLA REOPELLE: So to me observability means having peace of mind. It means having something that you can rely on in order to see what happened and what went wrong. I think observability is also a way to feel more technically connected to your customers and your users, so that you can see the ways that they’re interacting with your software instead of just the ways that you might interact with it.

MORGAN MCLEAN: I mean, observability to me transcends just the computing industry. It’s the ability to peer into something and understand how it works, what it’s doing right now, and thus if it breaks, how to fix it more quickly. Certainly when we think about telemetry in this industry, what observability classically has meant is visibility to backend infrastructure and applications kind of excitingly, I think it’s expanding right now, right? With OpenTelemetry we’re pushing into client applications, we’re pushing into mainframes, as I mentioned earlier. And so it’s really visibility into any systems that impact your business, any technical system observability.

HENRIK REXED: Usually when people mention of observability they say it’s a replacement of the old name monitoring. But in fact for me it’s more than monitoring, because monitoring is like, you just look at something and observability is like having enough information to understand a given situation. So if you just look at metrics then, okay, you have a guess that something is going on, but you don’t understand. So having the options to get more information like logs, events, exceptions, traces, compiling, then at the end combine all those dimensions together, then you say, okay, I got it, this is my problem and I can resolve it.

VIJAY SAMUEL: What does observability mean to me? I belong to what is called the site engineering organization inside of eBay, and our goal is to make sure that we can observe everything that’s going on in the site and ensure that we have high availability. So basically, observability means knowing if the site is running fine or not, because that’s why I’m there.

DANIEL GOMEZ BLANCO: What does observability mean to me? It’s a way for us to understand what’s happening within our systems, because we run quite a complex system, so we need to understand what goes on inside of them so we can deliver a good experience for our end users at the end of the day.

DOUG ODEGAARD: So observability is, to me, I’ve been a full stack developer for years, and so as we observe…actually I ended up on an incident response team doing tracking of incidents, but also trying to figure out what was wrong. And it pointed out to me how much we need this, how hard it was to look at so many different screens and so forth.

ADNAN RAHIĆ: So observability is, to me, I’ve been a full stack developer for years, and so as we observe…actually I ended up on an incident response team doing tracking of incidents, but also trying to figure out what was wrong. And it pointed out to me how much we need this, how hard it was to look at so many different screens and so forth.observability for me is the way to actually see what’s happening in your system. It’s the pinnacle of not being up the whole night trying to figure out what went wrong. And with OpenTelemetry and with the rise of tracing the last couple of years, it has hit an all time high with regards to the possibilities that we have right now. So I’m just really, really happy to be part of the project. I’m also really happy that it’s growing at that pace, that it’s growing right now, and I can’t see how that’s going to evolve within the next couple of years.

RYNN MANCUSO: For me, observability is about being able to ask deeper questions of our systems, being able to demand, I think more than just alerting on things that are emergencies, things we’ve seen before, but actually being able to go out into the unknown and understand how complex systems are performing.

3- What does OpenTelemetry mean to you?

IRIS DYRMISHI: OpenTelemetry is the tool that is making observability great again. I would say that observability is seeing the surge, now that OpenTelemetry is becoming so popular, it’s allowing centralization of telemetry signals, it’s allowing semantic conventions, and it’s generally helping observability teams and engineering teams take more attention to the observability and building it and making it better.

SEVERIN NEUMANN: What does OpenTelemetry mean to me? I think it’s the vehicle for observability. It’s enabling that. And I joined OpenTelemetry community a few years back because I was curious about this idea to bring observability to everybody. And I think we are doing a really good job. And what it also means to me now is that it’s an amazing community. Right? So we’re at KubeCon here, and I meet so many people I just know from those conversations, and now I can talk to them in person. And we talk a lot about OpenTelemetry, but we also talk a lot about other things than OpenTelemetry. We talk about observability, of course, about what we think about is going to happen in a few years and all those other things, and that’s what OpenTelemetry means to me.

KAYLA REOPELLE: So OpenTelemetry to me seems like it’s a community effort to take the best of what’s already been out there for instrumentation and collect it in one group so that everyone can benefit from it. I think that we’ve learned so much as different agent engineers, but there’s also so much to learn from users of the products themselves. And OpenTelemetry does a great job of bringing both people who are, you know, experts in observability, and experts in languages to make something that’s really great and meaningful for everyone.

MORGAN MCLEAN: I mean, OpenTelemetry is my baby. Put so much effort into creating this project. What does it mean to me? I mean, there’s the boring answer, which is it extracts signals: metrics, traces, logs, profiles, everything else from your infrastructure, from your services, from your clients, makes those observable, processable on the backend. But I think to a lot of us who’ve been in this community so long, and a lot of us like yourself and Henrik here and others who participate in the community so much, I mean, OTel is also just a really nice open source community to participate in. It’s a thing I just enjoy working on. I know that’s abstract and kind of like a sort of squishy thing to say, but I don’t know. OTel has a lot of meaning to me in many different ways. All very positive.

HENRIK REXED: OpenTelemetry for me, means the future. Because at the end, by having an open standard, we have the luxury to have a common standard for common format, for all the solution of the market and having that common format for all the industry and all the vendors and all the solutions, it will just open use cases. I think testing used to rely on, I don’t know, feedback from users. And now with observability data, we could be so much efficient in the way we’re testing, we could be so much efficient in replacing marketing tools, business analytics tools. I think it’s the future. And one thing that also a lot of people talk about, AI everywhere, machine learning, blah, blah, blah, but I think it’s the same thing as a Tesla. I mean, Tesla, when you drive your car, it takes decisions based on the sensors that it measures. And if you don’t have those sensors and those measurements, then you cannot have a smart… you can have the smartest systems, but without the data, you cannot take the right decisions. I think it’s an enabler also for the future implementations of modern applications.

VIJAY SAMUEL: OpenTelemetry is the standard for observability going forward, and it’s very important because as we have gone through the journey of observability over the past few years, we have had to hunt for open standards in Prometheus and few others. Now, at least with ingestion and collection, it’s a single standard for everyone to adopt. And I think that’s pretty powerful for the long run.

DANIEL GOMEZ BLANCO: What does OpenTelemetry mean to me? That, I think is bringing people together, bringing everyone together under one single language and the ones that way of thinking about telemetry. I think human languages are difficult enough for us to understand each other. And I think, you know, OpenTelemetry is bringing the technology together and one single way of like, thinking about telemetry, thinking about how we observe our systems.

DOUG ODEGAARD: To me, OpenTelemetry is bringing the ability to have product teams, infrastructure teams, helping their jobs make it easier and also just improve the customer experience and just make it overall a better experience to do our jobs.

ADNAN RAHIĆ: OpenTelemetry is the, I’m going to say, the future of observability. We’ve seen so many companies, many vendors move to an OpenTelemetry-first mindset, and the way that you can use OpenTelemetry to generate them, to actually gather all telemetry signals with one set of libraries, with one tool. It’s just the way it was supposed to be. You’re not locked into one tool, one vendor, one cloud provider anymore. You can do basically whatever you want, and you can use both the metrics, logs, and traces for basically anything you want to do. Really happy to see it.

RYNN MANCUSO: OpenTelemetry is an instrumentation protocol that helps us ask more detailed questions about observability because it collects multiple signals from many flexible types of systems. Folks monitor everything from the control plane in Kubernetes all the way up to physical on-prem systems. It’s a really flexible language and it’s beautiful community of humans that came together over the pandemic to build something really special.

4- How did you get involved with OpenTelemetry?

IRIS DYRMISHI: I was working in a very fast-pacing observability team, and we were maintaining a lot of tools and we really did not have conventions there, we did not have centralizations and we really were not flexible when it came to backends and vendor agnostic in general. So we discovered this amazing tool called OpenTelemetry. We said okay, let’s give it a try. It worked great for us. And here I am today, one year later, more than one year later, and let’s say pushing the migration to OpenTelemetry in my second project.

SEVERIN NEUMANN: How did I get involved into OpenTelemetry? So yeah, I mentioned that… so I got curious a few years ago. So I was… I was at AppDynamics working as a so-called domain architect, and I was an expert for Node.js, Python and a lot of those other languages. And there was always this conversation around like, hey, there’s this thing now called OpenTelemetry and should we not integrate this into our product? And I was like, okay, I want to learn more. Then I was like, what is a good way to learn something new about an open source technology? Yeah, get involved into that. So I was involved in JavaScript at some point, and then at some point I realized like, yeah, but if I really want to get a good view into OpenTelemetry, doing documentation is a good way into that. And that’s how I ended up being a maintainer for the documentation.

KAYLA REOPELLE: I got involved in OpenTelemetry last spring when New Relic asked me to take a look at what the current status was of the OpenTelemetry Ruby project. I also work as an engineer on the New Relic Ruby agent team, and that gave me an opportunity to start to contribute to the project. And I noticed that a lot of the signals for Ruby weren’t yet stable. So a lot of my work so far has been going into trying to bring logs and metrics to stability in Ruby.

MORGAN MCLEAN: I was working at Google on Google’s observability products like tracing, profiling, debugging, that sort of thing. And one of the challenges we had in tracing was getting data from people’s applications. It’s really, really hard. You need integrations of hundreds of thousands of pieces of software. No one team, no one company is going to maintain that. It’s just infeasible. And so we want to do something open source. There were other open source standards. There was one that had started, I think, roughly around the same time we were doing this, called OpenTracing. We started OpenCensus.

At some point, especially amongst the more social media savvy members, the team, which I am not one of, there was some contention between those projects about where people who maintain databases and language runtime things should actually spend their integration efforts, and it was limiting the success of both projects. So I was leading OpenCensus. Ted and Dan and others were leading OpenTracing. And in late 2018, early 2019, we finally sort of brought things to a head and decided to merge those into what is now called OpenTelemetry. So that’s sort of, you know, I’ve been involved since then, I’ve been…now I work at Splunk. Different company, but still on the same types of things. But that’s how my involvement started, and it’s just grown and grown and snowballed from there.

HENRIK REXED: When I started the adventure in observability, of course, I joined Dynatrace, and Dynatrace has their vendor agent, the OneAgent, and I saw this movement of OpenTelemetry, and coming from the performance background, I looked at it and I said, “Whoa, an open standard.” “That sounds quite exciting” because I had a performance, a gig for a customer, where I implemented like a collecting logs and processing it and putting machine learning. And I told myself at that time, it would be so wonderful to have one common standard. So then instead of doing a custom implementation, I could have something for everyone. And when I looked at the, just the definition of the project and the things behind the project, I was so excited. I said, oh, gosh, I want to be involved in the project. And that’s where I started to build content to help the community get started.

I used to be a developer, but I’m a bad developer for sure. So that’s why I’m trying to help the project in other ways, in all the directions. And yeah, my goal is increase the adoption of the open standards, making sure that it’s been adopted everywhere, so then we can move forward by implementing even more exciting implementations.

VIJAY SAMUEL: I started a few years ago for two reasons. One, we were looking to introduce tracing inside the company, and at that time, OpenTracing and OpenCensus was converging into OpenTelemetry. We started evaluating OpenTelemetry for that. And given that we were moving into OpenTelemetry for tracing, I also went through the journey of migrating our metrics collection into OpenTelemetry. That’s basically how I got involved.

DANIEL GOMEZ BLANCO: How did I get involved in OpenTelemetry? I got involved through my work at Skyscanner, as an end user. I was driving adoption and open standards for telemetry. During COVID there was a need for simplification and how we approach infrastructure, how we approach, how we collect, how we process, and how we export telemetry data, and also basically… to basically lead the adoption of open standards and their simplification effort. So as an observability lead, I got more involved in the community aspect of OpenTelemetry, decided to interact with all their end users and meeting people that want to solve the same problems and want to find a solution that works for everyone.

DOUG ODEGAARD: So, OpenTelemetry, I actually, for several years, in my previous position, I was hired to actually develop observability software. I was writing my own thing, we were doing a lot of alert management and various things. It was so much work and I thought, this has got to be easier. Plus I wanted to make sure that it could be future, future proof, dare I use that term? But also extensible.

And when I discovered OpenTelemetry, I was just like, oh, thank you. Because it’s something that the company could carry forward. And also we didn’t have to worry about storing the data as much. And so it’s really provided a really excellent platform so that we can focus on the task at hand versus how to do the job. So how I got involved in the project was actually first as a customer. It was about three, close to four years ago, kind of the infancy of OpenTelemetry. And I would go online, I would look at the documentation, or I would be in the code a lot, but I wanted to learn more. So I would go to a SIG call and there would be someone from Google and Microsoft and other companies, and then there was this guy from this small fintech in the US. And at first it was a little awkward, but they were so excited to have me in the call because I was an end user. And so it really was, it was a wonderful experience to begin that way, to realize that I could contribute to this rather than simply be a consumer of it. So it was great. And then I transitioned my career into working for a vendor, and we implement these systems now for customers like myself that I was years ago. So it’s kind of a pay it forward, give back type of thing.

ADNAN RAHIĆ: How did we get involved into the OpenTelemetry project? We started contributing more to the blog with you guys started contributing a bit to the docs as well. And yeah, it’s just been a whole-hearted effort in the team to always kind of dedicate a few, a few minutes of each day to check out the OpenTelemetry project, find a way to contribute.

RYNN MANCUSO: I got involved in the OpenTelemetry project…honestly, I was working at one observability company in marketing, and they didn’t see the point. They didn’t want me to get involved. And I really believed in open source. I’d worked in Mozilla and Wikimedia and really believed that, like, this was the way forward from a strategic perspective. So the second I could switch to a company that did let me get involved, that’s what I did. And now I’m at Honeycomb. And I’m glad to say within the first three months, I made project member and started working with the End User Working Group and worked to grow it into a SIG, into all the programs that it has today, together with others.

5- What’s your favorite telemetry signal?

IRIS DYRMISHI: Tracing is my favorite signal.

SEVERIN NEUMANN: My favorite signal now is profiling, because I think this is really closing a big gap that was missing in observability, right? So I mentioned before, right, I come from the APM space, and now for me, APM, observability, it’s very hard to make, like, a difference here. But one thing that when I talk with people using APM products right now is they’re like, hey, where’s code level visibility with OpenTelemetry, right? My commercial agent is giving me that line of code that is breaking something. And this is what we get with profiling. And that’s why I’m really, really excited about it.

KAYLA REOPELLE: To decide a favorite signal is kind of difficult for me. I really love the power of traces. I think that traces can tell stories in ways that are very meaningful. But on the same, like, on the other hand, I’ve been so immersed in logs and trying to allow logs to have more connections to spans and traces, I definitely have a soft spot for logs as well.

MORGAN MCLEAN: I mean, I’m partial to distributed traces because that’s where this project got its start. And I think early on, that’s where a lot of the value was. No one else was really doing standardized distributed trace collection right? There were some open source examples of it attached to, like, Zipkin and Jaeger. But I think the reason OpenTelemetry got so much traction so quickly is that it was providing that.

I’m also partial to logs, which we launched last year, just because that’s one where, like, I’ve been involved in a lot of parts of OTel… But that’s one where like, I was involved in a lot of the core specification early on in driving that. And so it was really exciting to see that ship. Also, logs are just a thing that throughout my career before working on any of this, I just get frustrated with, because they’re never standardized, slow to process, they’re expensive. OTel going to bring a lot of changes there for the better for everyone who uses logs.

And finally, I guess profiles, because I work on that now. When I was at Google many years ago, I launched what I think was the world’s first distributed continuous profiling product, at least publicly available one, which was Google cloud profiling, Stackdriver profiling, they still support it, I still think it’s free, it’s very powerful. But profiling has always been a bit of a niche thing. Like, I know, like at Splunk and other companies, we support it, but it’s not as well known as metrics, and traces, and logs. I think with OTel, starting later this year, we’re gonna launch like full support for profiles. That’s really gonna change. Like, we had customers at Google who would spend an hour of our profiler and save like 20, 30% of their aggregate compute because they found some really poorly optimized code really quickly. For more people to have that ability and speed things up and for developers actually to get insight into how things work, that’s super exciting. Like, the tech has been there a long time and OTel bringing this mainstream is huge.

HENRIK REXED: When people ask me, who is your favorite kid? Usually I say, I don’t have a favorite kid, you know. All my kids are wonderful. They all have, I don’t know, a great thing, you know, out of it. So I think I love traces because sometimes it helps you to understand where it slowed down. I love metrics because as a performance engineer, I used to use metrics a lot. And I love logs because logs at the end, there’s no sampling. So if you just do analytics on logs, wow, you are so much precise.

So I don’t think I have a favorite signal. I’ll just say that depending on what I need and pick and choose, there’s clearly one signal that will help me more. There’s one thing that I’m very eager and waiting since Valencia is continuous profiling, because I love profiling and I think traces is great, but if there is a problem somewhere, profiling would be so much helpful. So I think, yeah, I don’t answer your questions, but I say, yeah, I love all the signals provided by OpenTelemetry.

VIJAY SAMUEL: I am thoroughly biased towards metrics. I feel metrics are the most powerful signal. As long as you are thinking through your instrumentation and making sure that you have the right granularity cardinality being sent in, to the platform, you can do powerful, powerful things with regards to anomaly detection, machine learning and many other things. So I love metrics.

DANIEL GOMEZ BLANCO: I mean, I have to say traces, because they give you the context. Traces give you the backbone correlation for all the other signals, right? But I do think that the current design of the API design of metrics is so powerful that I’m like falling in love again with metrics because of that way that we decouple instrumentation and measurement from aggregation of metrics is so powerful and so much richness to basically give us a way to describe our systems, that I’m falling back again in love with metrics.

DOUG ODEGAARD: My favorite signal, I have to say, I’m partial to traces because I’ve been doing software development for so long that that was the first thing that really turned me on to it was the ability to see that, especially because I know what it’s like, like to debug. But it’s also, I also know what it’s like in an incident to have to focus in very quickly. So yes, traces are my favorite, but I do also like to send that trace ID and span ID into the logs now. It’s kind of becoming my next favorite.

ADNAN RAHIĆ: My favorite signal is traces. I’m going to say traces, definitely. My favorite singer is Ed Sheeran.

RYNN MANCUSO: What is my favorite signal? I mean, I work for Honeycomb, so I am constitutionally obliged to say traces are my favorite signal.

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