A distribution, not to be confused with a fork, is customized version of an OpenTelemetry component.

The OpenTelemetry projects consists of multiple components that support multiple signals. The reference implementation of OpenTelemetry is available as:

From any reference implementation a distribution may be created.

What is a distribution?

A distribution, not to be confused with a fork, is customized version of an OpenTelemetry component. A distribution is a wrapper around an upstream OpenTelemetry repository with some customizations. Customizations in a distribution may include:

  • Scripts to ease use or customize use for a specific backend or vendor
  • Changes to default settings required for a backend, vendor, or end-user
  • Additional packaging options that may be vendor or end-user specific
  • Test, performance, and security coverage beyond what OpenTelemetry provides
  • Additional capabilities beyond what OpenTelemetry provides
  • Less capabilities from what OpenTelemetry provides

Distributions would broadly fall into the following categories:

  • “Pure”: These distributions provide the same functionality as upstream and are 100% compatible. Customizations would typically be to ease of use or packaging. These customizations may be backend, vendor, or end-user specific.
  • “Plus”: These distributions provide the same functionality as upstream plus more. Customizations beyond those found in pure distributions would be the inclusion of additional components. Examples of this would include instrumentation libraries or vendor exporters not upstreamed to the OpenTelemetry project.
  • “Minus”: These distributions provide a reduced set of functionality from upstream. Examples of this would include the removal of instrumentation libraries or receivers/processors/exporters/extensions found in the OpenTelemetry Collector project. These distributions may be provided to increase supportability and security considerations.

Who would create a distribution?

Anyone could create a distribution. Today, several vendors offer distributions. In addition, end-users can consider creating a distribution if they wish to use components in the Registry that are not upstreamed to the OpenTelemetry project.

Contribution or distribution?

Before you read on and learn how you can create your own distribution, ask yourself if your additions on top of an OpenTelemetry component would be beneficial for everyone and therefore should be included in the reference implementations:

  • Can your scripts for “ease of use” be generalized?
  • Can your changes to default settings be the better option for everyone?
  • Are your additional packaging options really specific?
  • Might your test, performance & security coverage work with the reference implementation as well?
  • Have you checked with the community if your additional capabilities could be part of the standard?

Creating your own distribution


A guide on how to create your own distribution is available in this blog post: “Building your own OpenTelemetry Collector distribution”

If you are building your own distribution, the OpenTelemetry Collector Builder might be a good starting point.

Language Specific Instrumentation libraries

There are language specific extensibility mechanisms to customize the instrumentation libraries:

What you should know about distributions

When using OpenTelemetry project collateral such as logo and name for your distribution, make sure that you are in line with the OpenTelemetry Marketing Guidelines for Contributing Organizations.

The OpenTelemetry project does not certify distributions at this time. In the future, OpenTelemetry may certify distributions and partners similarly to the Kubernetes project. When evaluating a distribution, ensure using the distribution does not result in vendor lock-in.

Any support for a distribution comes from the distribution authors and not the OpenTelemetry authors.