Introduction to distributed tracing

New Relic offers distributed tracing for monitoring and analyzing modern distributed systems. This document explains:

What is distributed tracing?

Modern applications and sites increasingly use many interconnected services. An application architecture that relies on many services or microservices is often referred to as a distributed system.

Distributed tracing is the process of tracking the activity resulting from a request to an application. With this feature, you can:

  • Trace the path of a request as it travels across a complex system
  • Discover the latency of the components along that path
  • Know which component in the path is creating a bottleneck

Distributed tracing from New Relic

New Relic distributed tracing trace view
rpm.newrelic.com/apm > (select an application) > Distributed tracing > Trace details: Once you select a trace, you can see its services and spans, including any anomalous spans. You can zoom in on a specific time range and examine a span's duration and other performance data. For more details about the UI, see the UI documentation.

Distributed tracing lets you see the path that a request takes as it travels through a distributed system. A distributed trace is composed of multiple spans, which represent time spent in services or resources of those services.

Our distributed tracing features include:

  • A dedicated UI page with visual tools that help you analyze and troubleshoot traces.
  • Anomalous span detection: spans that are slow compared to their typical durations are marked as anomalous, with charts comparing timing with similar spans.
  • Trace charts are filterable by different data points, letting you analyze your trace data from many different angles.
  • You can create custom queries of your distributed trace data and create custom data dashboards.
  • Cross-account context: for New Relic accounts with the same master account or under the same customer partnership, you can see trace data from those accounts.
  • New Relic product context: speed up issue resolution by seeing how distributed trace data is related to other services and data we monitor.

You can enable distributed tracing by installing (or updating) New Relic APM agents and then turning on a configuration setting. For more information, see Enable distributed tracing.

Other resources:

Enable distributed tracing

Enabling distributed tracing will affect some existing New Relic APM features. If you are accustomed to using APM without distributed tracing, read the transition guide before you enable this feature.

Relationship to cross application tracing

Our distributed tracing feature replaces the previous cross application tracing feature. Compared to cross application tracing, distributed tracing gives more detail about cross-service activity and provides more complete end-to-end visibility.

For more help

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