OpenTelemetry Environment Variable Specification

Status: Mixed

The goal of this specification is to unify the environment variable names between different OpenTelemetry SDK implementations. SDKs MAY choose to allow configuration via the environment variables in this specification, but are not required to. If they do, they SHOULD use the names listed in this document.

Parsing empty value

Status: Stable

The SDK MUST interpret an empty value of an environment variable the same way as when the variable is unset.

Special configuration types

Status: Stable

Numeric value

If an SDK chooses to support an integer-valued environment variable, it SHOULD support nonnegative values between 0 and 2³¹ − 1 (inclusive). Individual SDKs MAY choose to support a larger range of values.

Enum value

For variables which accept a known value out of a set, i.e., an enum value, SDK implementations MAY support additional values not listed here. For variables accepting an enum value, if the user provides a value the SDK does not recognize, the SDK MUST generate a warning and gracefully ignore the setting.


Any value that represents a duration, for example a timeout, MUST be an integer representing a number of milliseconds. The value is non-negative - if a negative value is provided, the SDK MUST generate a warning, gracefully ignore the setting and use the default value if it is defined.

For example, the value 12000 indicates 12000 milliseconds, i.e., 12 seconds.

General SDK Configuration

Status: Stable

Name Description Default Notes
OTEL_RESOURCE_ATTRIBUTES Key-value pairs to be used as resource attributes See Resource SDK for more details.
OTEL_SERVICE_NAME Sets the value of the resource attribute If is also provided in OTEL_RESOURCE_ATTRIBUTES, then OTEL_SERVICE_NAME takes precedence.
OTEL_LOG_LEVEL Log level used by the SDK logger “info”
OTEL_PROPAGATORS Propagators to be used as a comma-separated list “tracecontext,baggage” Values MUST be deduplicated in order to register a Propagator only once.
OTEL_TRACES_SAMPLER Sampler to be used for traces “parentbased_always_on” See Sampling
OTEL_TRACES_SAMPLER_ARG String value to be used as the sampler argument The specified value will only be used if OTEL_TRACES_SAMPLER is set. Each Sampler type defines its own expected input, if any. Invalid or unrecognized input MUST be logged and MUST be otherwise ignored, i.e. the SDK MUST behave as if OTEL_TRACES_SAMPLER_ARG is not set.

Known values for OTEL_PROPAGATORS are:

Known values for OTEL_TRACES_SAMPLER are:

  • "always_on": AlwaysOnSampler
  • "always_off": AlwaysOffSampler
  • "traceidratio": TraceIdRatioBased
  • "parentbased_always_on": ParentBased(root=AlwaysOnSampler)
  • "parentbased_always_off": ParentBased(root=AlwaysOffSampler)
  • "parentbased_traceidratio": ParentBased(root=TraceIdRatioBased)
  • "jaeger_remote": JaegerRemoteSampler
  • "xray": AWS X-Ray Centralized Sampling (third party)

Depending on the value of OTEL_TRACES_SAMPLER, OTEL_TRACES_SAMPLER_ARG may be set as follows:

  • For traceidratio and parentbased_traceidratio samplers: Sampling probability, a number in the [0..1] range, e.g. “0.25”. Default is 1.0 if unset.
  • For jaeger_remote: The value is a comma separated list:
    • endpoint: the endpoint in form of host:port of gRPC server that serves the sampling strategy for the service (sampling.proto).
    • pollingIntervalMs: in milliseconds indicating how often the sampler will poll the backend for updates to sampling strategy.
    • initialSamplingRate: in the [0..1] range, which is used as the sampling probability when the backend cannot be reached to retrieve a sampling strategy. This value stops having an effect once a sampling strategy is retrieved successfully, as the remote strategy will be used until a new update is retrieved.
    • Example: endpoint=localhost:14250,pollingIntervalMs=5000,initialSamplingRate=0.25

Batch Span Processor

Status: Stable

Name Description Default Notes
OTEL_BSP_SCHEDULE_DELAY Delay interval between two consecutive exports 5000
OTEL_BSP_EXPORT_TIMEOUT Maximum allowed time to export data 30000
OTEL_BSP_MAX_QUEUE_SIZE Maximum queue size 2048
OTEL_BSP_MAX_EXPORT_BATCH_SIZE Maximum batch size 512 Must be less than or equal to OTEL_BSP_MAX_QUEUE_SIZE

Attribute Limits

SDKs SHOULD only offer environment variables for the types of attributes, for which that SDK implements truncation mechanism.

See the SDK Attribute Limits section for the definition of the limits.

Name Description Default Notes
OTEL_ATTRIBUTE_VALUE_LENGTH_LIMIT Maximum allowed attribute value size Empty value is treated as infinity. Non-integer and negative values are invalid.
OTEL_ATTRIBUTE_COUNT_LIMIT Maximum allowed span attribute count 128

Span Limits

Status: Stable

See the SDK Span Limits section for the definition of the limits.

Name Description Default Notes
OTEL_SPAN_ATTRIBUTE_VALUE_LENGTH_LIMIT Maximum allowed attribute value size Empty value is treated as infinity. Non-integer and negative values are invalid.
OTEL_SPAN_ATTRIBUTE_COUNT_LIMIT Maximum allowed span attribute count 128
OTEL_SPAN_EVENT_COUNT_LIMIT Maximum allowed span event count 128
OTEL_SPAN_LINK_COUNT_LIMIT Maximum allowed span link count 128
OTEL_EVENT_ATTRIBUTE_COUNT_LIMIT Maximum allowed attribute per span event count 128
OTEL_LINK_ATTRIBUTE_COUNT_LIMIT Maximum allowed attribute per span link count 128

OTLP Exporter

See OpenTelemetry Protocol Exporter Configuration Options.

Jaeger Exporter

Status: Stable

Name Description Default
OTEL_EXPORTER_JAEGER_AGENT_HOST Hostname for the Jaeger agent “localhost”
OTEL_EXPORTER_JAEGER_AGENT_PORT Port for the Jaeger agent compact Thrift protocol 6831
OTEL_EXPORTER_JAEGER_ENDPOINT HTTP endpoint for Jaeger traces “http://localhost:14250”
OTEL_EXPORTER_JAEGER_TIMEOUT Maximum time the Jaeger exporter will wait for each batch export 10s
OTEL_EXPORTER_JAEGER_USER Username to be used for HTTP basic authentication -
OTEL_EXPORTER_JAEGER_PASSWORD Password to be used for HTTP basic authentication -

See Jaeger Agent documentation.

Zipkin Exporter

Status: Stable

Name Description Default
OTEL_EXPORTER_ZIPKIN_ENDPOINT Endpoint for Zipkin traces “http://localhost:9411/api/v2/spans”
OTEL_EXPORTER_ZIPKIN_TIMEOUT Maximum time the Zipkin exporter will wait for each batch export 10s

Addtionally, the following environment variables are reserved for future usage in Zipkin Exporter configuration:


This will be used to specify whether or not the exporter uses v1 or v2, json, thrift or protobuf. As of 1.0 of the specification, there is no specified default, or configuration via environment variables.

Prometheus Exporter

Status: Experimental

Name Description Default
OTEL_EXPORTER_PROMETHEUS_HOST Host used by the Prometheus exporter All addresses: “”
OTEL_EXPORTER_PROMETHEUS_PORT Port used by the Prometheus exporter 9464

Exporter Selection

Status: Stable

We define environment variables for setting one or more exporters per signal.

Name Description Default
OTEL_TRACES_EXPORTER Trace exporter to be used “otlp”
OTEL_METRICS_EXPORTER Metrics exporter to be used “otlp”

The SDK MAY accept a comma-separated list to enable setting multiple exporters.

Known values for OTEL_TRACES_EXPORTER are:

Known values for OTEL_METRICS_EXPORTER are:

  • "otlp": OTLP
  • "prometheus": Prometheus
  • "none": No automatically configured exporter for metrics.

Metrics SDK Configuration

Status: Experimental

Name Description Default Notes
OTEL_METRICS_EXEMPLAR_FILTER Filter for which measurements can become Exemplars. "with_sampled_trace"


  • "none": No measurements are eligble for exemplar sampling.
  • "all": All measurements are eligible for exemplar sampling.
  • "with_sampled_trace": Only allow measurements with a sampled parent span in context.

Periodic exporting MetricReader

Name Description Default Notes
OTEL_METRIC_EXPORT_INTERVAL The time interval (in milliseconds) between the start of two export attempts. 60000
OTEL_METRIC_EXPORT_TIMEOUT Maximum allowed time (in milliseconds) to export data. 30000

Language Specific Environment Variables

To ensure consistent naming across projects, this specification recommends that language specific environment variables are formed using the following convention: