Kubernetes: dapr and distributed tracing with Azure Monitor

Microservices are the modern way of designing software architectures. A Microservice is simple and an independently deployable service that can scale on your needs. With regard to a monolithic architecture the interface layer has moved to the network. As a developer we are used to debugging with the call stack in a monolithic architecture. With Microservices these days are over because a call stack is only available within a process. But how do we debug across process boundaries? That is where distributed tracing comes in.

With ApplicationInsights, Azure Monitor offers a distributed tracing solution that makes a developer’s live easier. ApplicationInsights offers an application map view which aggregates many transactions to show a topological view of how the systems interact, and what the average performance and error rates are.

Distributed tracing in dapr uses OpenTelemetry (previously known as OpenCensus) for distributed traces and metrics collection. You can define exporters to export telemetry to an endpoint that can handle the OpenTelemetry format. dapr adds a HTTP/gRPC middleware to the dapr sidecar. The middleware intercepts all dapr and application traffic and automatically injects correlation IDs to trace distributed transactions.

In order to push telemetry to an instance of ApplicationInsights an agent that understands the telemetry format must be used to transform and push the data to ApplicationInsights. There is a component available named LocalForwarder that collects OpenCensus telemetry and routes it to ApplicationInsights. LocalForwarder is an open source project on GitHub.

Demo Architecture

I have created a demo architecture that shows how distributed tracing in dapr is configured and how telemetry is routed to ApplicationInsights. To keep it simple the application consists of four services. There are three backend services ServiceA, ServiceB and ServiceC. These services accepts http requests and returns a simple string. The fourth service is a simple Frontend that uses Swagger to render a simple UI. The Frontend service makes calls to the backend services.

After the application is deployed to Kubernetes and some test data is generated, the application map of ApplicationInsights can be viewed.

Demo application on GitHub

The demo application is available on my GitHub repository. The repository contains a detailed description how to setup distributed tracing in dapr on Kubernetes.


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