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Published April 29, 2022

What is Distributed Tracing?

What is Distributed Tracing?

As systems get ever more complicated with more layers in the application stack, it can become more difficult to keep track of what is happening at all of the different, discrete levels and this is where distributed tracing comes into play.

The sheer size and complexity of today’s systems, with different connections in the cloud, to remote servers and to on-site services means that there is a high level of observability required in order to keep on top of everything that is happening within the interconnected systems and environments that are now in play.

In short, distributed tracing is a way for the software teams to cut through the complexities and to follow the path that requests take on their journey through the landscape of your company’s IT infrastructure.

The goal of tracing is to understand the linear user journey through an entire application stack and the obstacles that may crop up along the way. It is a good way to detect loops and blockages and is far more efficient in this regard than merely examining log files which contain comparatively little information as the logs pertain to a specific node on the wider system whereas the trace takes in the entire journey.

Distributed tracing allows a deeper dive into the specific conditions affecting the data journey and can show vastly more detail when trying to get to the heart of a problem.

Event Logging vs Monitoring vs Distributed Tracing

It is important to understand the distinction between these three separate tools and the differing roles that they play in helping to ensure that your system is running smoothly and in the way that was intended.

Event Logging

Event logging, or logging as it is often shortened to, refers to the practice of tracking error reporting in a centralized way, often with system administrators in control at the operational level. This provides a high-level overview and the log files produced can be configured to show any individual event within a system or application, including state transformations, errors and failures. The information contained in the log files can help to understand what caused the detected errors.


This refers to both the act of keeping an eye on what’s happening with the system through logging and application tracing, and it’s more common usage of instrumenting and equipping an application in order to collect and analyze measurable data. The data aggregation, analysis and curation of appropriate metrics in order to be able to successfully troubleshoot potential problems that may be experienced is what is generally meant by monitoring, in this sense.

Distributed Tracing

Logging can offer a rough overview of events that have triggered within a system or application but tracing allows for a much deeper exploration and a continuous view rather than a snapshot of a moment in time, which is what log files are. It’s similar to the difference in data, and potential for interpretation, between having a video camera inside the system recording and only having photos taken at ten or twenty second intervals. It is obvious which provides a more in-depth understanding of what the current situation looks like.

Tracing can represent a single user’s journey through the whole of an application stack, which allows the programmers or development teams to analyze every step of the way and enables decisions to be taken on which aspects should be optimized to eliminate bottlenecks and resolve any performance issues. The scope provided by tracing is far greater than is available through the other methods mentioned and far greater granularity can be achieved when applying scrutiny to choke points in the system.

Distributed tracing offers a major upgrade in terms of observability and can work alongside monitoring and logging to produce a comprehensive set of tools which enable enhanced response capability from the DevOps team to any problems that may occur, as well as offering the ability to get ahead of anything that may potentially become a larger problem in the future.

How can Nastel help?

With decades of experience in end-to-end management of messaging middleware and integration infrastructure, Nastel Technologies offers innovative solutions that visualize the paths that are taken by data along with any events and flags that are triggered on its way. Nastel’s transaction tracking offers real-time and accurate tracking of your entire transaction flow.

Problem: The need to see inside every system

The problem that Nastel has set out to solve is that when conducting business in the internet age, whether it is via an enterprise payment system or a mobile application, there is a need to be able to see inside every system involved in the data journey and to understand where the points are where there are problems, backlogs and failures.

Solution: Nastel’s Transaction Tracking

Nastel’s transaction tracking is distributed tracing at its best, not just collecting the data to understand where potential problems lie but providing a full visualization of the data journeys from end-to-end. This makes it a lot easier to identify points of failure and the steps necessary to optimize and streamline the process for the future.

The Nastel system is the most powerful on the market today and is able to link up and visualize all of the data that makes up the transactions that power your business. This real-time end-to-end view of transactions works enterprise-wide, no matter the complexity of the system and the combination and variety of on-site, off-site and cloud-based systems involved.

This allows for real-time and near real-time analysis of any problems, as well as alerting and analysis of historical data and brings machine-learning into play to analyze patterns in system events. The DevOps team is then able to implement simple rules going forward on how certain events should be dealt with in future, based on what has been discovered by the tracking software.

In short, distributed tracing and Nastel XRay, which incorporates this, should be a genuine consideration for any business that is serious about occupying the end-to-end messaging middleware space. The flexibility and observability provided by their transaction tracking system is peerless and positions Nastel at the forefront of their field.