What is telemetry? (And why is it important for your apps?)

Telemetry is the process of transmitting data from its origin to another location for analysis. Today, many devices send and receive telemetry data, including smartphones, industrial machinery, countless Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and network infrastructure elements. In software development, the importance of telemetry has grown alongside the rise of cloud computing. Telemetry data collected from software includes metrics, logs, traces, and events related to application performance, user experience, and system health.

Effective telemetry is crucial in distributed systems like cloud services. When components are spread across physical and virtual environments, closely observing system health and performance issues becomes challenging. Without a telemetry data processing system, teams can struggle to effectively respond to issues when they arise, let alone manage and optimize system performance proactively.

Understanding telemetry in software development

In software development today, telemetry is the linchpin of monitoring and analysis. Modern telemetry tools automate application and system data collection, delivering real-time insights into health and performance. This data stream is critical for understanding how software behaves in different environments and conditions.

The core types of telemetry data include:

  • Metrics — These are quantitative measurements of system health, including CPU usage, response times, and memory consumption. Metrics are the pulse of the system, offering live insights into its performance at any given moment.
  • Logs — These are the detailed diary of a system, chronicling every event, error, and transaction. Logs provide a historical record that you can analyze to identify the root causes of issues, making them invaluable for troubleshooting. A typical e-commerce application, for example, will keep detailed logs of user login attempts, transactions, any system errors that occur during checkout, and API calls to payment gateways.
  • Traces — Traces provide a step-by-step account of transactions as they travel through a system’s various components. For instance, the trace of a user making a purchase on an online platform might start when the user clicks the "Buy Now" button, then the sequence of services involved in processing the purchase: user authentication, inventory check, payment processing, and finally, order confirmation. Each step is logged with precise timing information. In the telemetry data, these steps are called spans and a series of spans comprises a trace. This detailed pathway helps pinpoint inefficiencies and bottlenecks, simplifying, optimizing, and streamlining operations.
  • Events — These are significant occurrences within the system, marking critical moments that could impact performance and behavior. An event might be a system’s CPU exceeding a set threshold, indicating high demand or a performance issues, or it could be a failed login attempt. Monitoring events helps you to elucidate the system’s reactions to specific conditions.

The role of telemetry in observability

Observability has become a greater concern for developers as distributed systems have become more common. Distributed systems are complex environments with many moving parts spread across a wide geographical and conceptual space, so being able to see into these disparate parts from a central location is essential. Modern telemetry goes beyond traditional monitoring, offering a more detailed view of the inner workings of applications and infrastructure. This deeper perspective is crucial for ensuring systems are not only operational but also efficient, resilient, and aligned with user expectations.

Telemetry data — encompassing metrics, logs, traces, and events — is the foundation for observability. It offers a holistic view of system health, helping you understand precisely why undesirable behaviors or events occur. This level of insight is particularly valuable in distributed systems, where components span multiple environments, making issue identification challenging.

Telemetry fulfills two key roles when it comes to observability:

  • Diagnosing and responding to issues — Telemetry provides granular detail, letting you quickly identify anomalies, diagnose underlying causes, and implement remedies. This capability is essential for minimizing downtime and preserving the user experience.
  • Proactive performance management — Telemetry helps teams to anticipate potential problems. By analyzing patterns in telemetry data, teams can adjust systems to prevent issues before they occur, optimizing performance and ensuring system reliability.

In short, telemetry empowers development teams to be proactive with their system management and incident response.

Telemetry data collection and analysis

Collecting, transmitting, and analyzing telemetry data involves deploying software agents and using software development kits (SDKs) and application programming interfaces (APIs).

The diagram below illustrates this process:

The process of telemetry data collection and analysis Fig.1: The process of telemetry data collection and analysis

Telemetry data collection starts at the source with applications, services, and infrastructure components. This is facilitated by agents embedded within system components and SDKs attached to them:

  • Agents — Agents perform passive monitoring, automatically collecting data without direct code modifications. They are ideal for infrastructure monitoring and basic application metrics.
  • SDKs — SDKs enable developers to instrument their code to collect custom telemetry data. This is particularly useful for tracing and logging custom events within applications, allowing for more detailed observability.

Once collected, data is transmitted to a cloud platform for analysis. This is achieved via APIs, which enable efficient, real-time transfer of data across network boundaries while ensuring data integrity and security. They also enable integration with other tools and systems (for example, Site24x7’s integration with OpenTelemetry), enhancing the flexibility and scalability of telemetry practices.

Finally, telemetry data is processed and aggregated with specialized monitoring and analysis tools. This stage might involve complex event processing, trend analysis, and anomaly detection. The raw telemetry data is transformed into actionable insights, presented via dashboards, reports, and alerts.

Site24x7’s telemetry solutions and OpenTelemetry support

Site24x7 supercharges your telemetry capabilities, giving you the ability to ensure optimal performance of your systems. With Site24x7’s APIs, you can ingest telemetry data-- collected from various applications and infrastructure through OpenTelemetry’s SDKs-- into the Site24x7 platform. These advanced data collection and analysis tools will give you actionable insights to drive decision-making and system improvements.

Robust support for the open-source observability framework OpenTelemetry allows for seamless aggregation of metrics, logs, and traces across diverse platforms and languages, offering flexibility and interoperability. Whether the environment is cloud-native or on-premises, Site24x7 provides a cohesive view of system health and performance.

OpenTelemetry integration is useful but to fully realize the benefits you need effective telemetry data management. That’s why we’ve equipped Site24x7 with various features to achieve optimal data handling:

  • Data aggregation to minimize noise and enhance the signal in vast datasets
  • Data filtering to focus analysis on relevant information
  • Sophisticated data visualization techniques to help you intuitively understand complex system dynamics

Together, these practices ensure that telemetry data visualized in Site24x7 is a powerful lever for system optimization, rather than an overwhelming flood of information.


The key to effective telemetry in in distributed systems is observability. It’s a lens through which you can view application performance, user experience, and system health in granular detail. This article has shown you how metrics, logs, traces, and events give you deeper insights into your software’s behaviors and interactions. With observability, you can diagnose issues swiftly, manage performance proactively, and respond precisely to incidents.

With powerful telemetry capabilities and OpenTelemetry support, Site24x7 can enhance your application’s performance and reliability. Sign up for a free 30-day trial, and experience firsthand how it can transform your approach to performance monitoring and system observability.

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