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Semantic Conventions

These documents define standard names and values of Resource attributes and Span attributes.

The type of the attribute SHOULD be specified in the semantic convention for that attribute. Array values are allowed for attributes. For protocols that do not natively support array values such values MUST be represented as JSON strings.

Span Conventions

In OpenTelemetry spans can be created freely and it’s up to the implementor to annotate them with attributes specific to the represented operation. Spans represent specific operations in and between systems. Some of these operations represent calls that use well-known protocols like HTTP or database calls. Depending on the protocol and the type of operation, additional information is needed to represent and analyze a span correctly in monitoring systems. It is also important to unify how this attribution is made in different languages. This way, the operator will not need to learn specifics of a language and telemetry collected from multi-language micro-service can still be easily correlated and cross-analyzed.

The following semantic conventions for spans are defined:

  • HTTP: Spans for HTTP client and server.
  • Database: Spans for SQL and NoSQL client calls.
  • RPC/RMI: Spans for remote procedure calls (e.g., gRPC).
  • General: General semantic attributes that may be used in describing different kinds of operations.
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