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Profiling ApostropheCMS with OpenTelemetry

Sometimes developers need insight into performance issues with their websites. OpenTelemetry is a widely adopted, open source solution for collecting performance "traces" that provide insight into where the time is going when a website responds to a request.

Here's the good news: ApostropheCMS has built-in support for OpenTelemetry tracing. So all we need to do is install the OpenTelemetry SDK in our Apostrophe-powered website project and set up a compatible "backend" in which to view the reports. Jaeger is one of the simplest and best backends available.

Here is a quick guide to enabling OpenTelemetry tracing for ApostropheCMS with the Jaeger backend. By the end of this guide, we'll be able to see not just how long requests take, but how much of the time in each request is spent on MongoDB queries, template rendering, Apostrophe events and more. This can be a helpful starting point for optimizing project code.

1. Install the required dependencies

Install the required dependencies in your ApostropheCMS project:

npm install @opentelemetry/sdk-node@0.27.0 \
  @opentelemetry/auto-instrumentations-node@0.27.4 \
  @opentelemetry/exporter-jaeger@1.0.1 \

NOTE: we can update our dependency versions based on the OpenTelemetry compatibality matrix. It's recommended to install the OpenTelemtry dependencies with fixed versions until this PR is resolved.

Also make sure apostrophe is updated to at least version 3.18.0, preferably the newest 4.x release available.

2. Install Jaeger

The easiest way to install and run Jaeger in our development environment is via Docker image. Here are the most basic steps to do that, but if you prefer you may follow the Jaeger Getting Started Guide.


First ensure you have Docker installed.

docker --version

Now we can install and launch Jaeger in the background with a single command:

docker run -d --name jaeger \
  -p 5775:5775/udp \
  -p 6831:6831/udp \
  -p 6832:6832/udp \
  -p 5778:5778 \
  -p 16686:16686 \
  -p 14268:14268 \
  -p 14250:14250 \
  -p 9411:9411 \

Jaeger will keep running in the background. We can stop it later with:

docker stop jaeger && docker rm jaeger

Now we can open http://localhost:16686 in the browser to ensure Jaeger is working properly.

3. Configure OpenTelemetry

There are various ways to configure and integrate OpenTelemetry in a project. We think this is the cleanest way.

Create telemetry.js in the project root:

// ./telemetry.js
const { NodeSDK, resources } = require('@opentelemetry/sdk-node');
const { SemanticResourceAttributes } = require('@opentelemetry/semantic-conventions');
const { getNodeAutoInstrumentations } = require('@opentelemetry/auto-instrumentations-node');
const { JaegerExporter } = require('@opentelemetry/exporter-jaeger');

// 1. Add the application metadata (resource)
const pkg = require('./package-lock.json');
const resource = new resources.Resource({
  [SemanticResourceAttributes.SERVICE_VERSION]: pkg.version

// 2. Initialize the exporter
const traceExporter = new JaegerExporter({
  tags: [],
  endpoint: 'http://localhost:14268/api/traces'

// 3. Initialize the SDK
const sdk = new NodeSDK({
  instrumentations: [ getNodeAutoInstrumentations() ]

// 4. The shutdown handler
const shutdown = async () => {
  await sdk
      () => console.log('OpenTelemetry stopped'),
      (err) => console.log('Error shutting down OpenTelemetry', err)

module.exports = {

Now we'll need to refactor app.js a little bit to connect OpenTelemetry with Apostrophe:

// ./app.js
// The Apostrophe bootstrap
const apostrophe = require('apostrophe');
const { sdk, shutdown } = require('./telemetry');

// Move Apostrophe configuration to a variable, rather than directly
// invoking the apostrophe function

const config = {
  shortName: 'myApp',
  // Provide our shutdown handler
  beforeExit: process.env.APOS_OPENTELEMETRY ? shutdown : null,
  modules: {
    // ... Our regular module configuration comes here

// Invoke based on APOS_OPENTELEMETRY environment variable
if (process.env.APOS_OPENTELEMETRY) {
  // This allows the SDK to be fully initialized,
  // and is the cleanest way to start the app
    .then(() => console.log('OpenTelemetry started'))
    .then(() => apostrophe(config));
} else {
  // Start normally if APOS_OPENTELEMETRY is not truthy

The important bits of this change are:

  1. Capture the apostrophe configuration in a variable
  2. Provide a shutdown handler for telemetry.js as the value of the Apostrophe beforeExit configuration option
  3. Start Apostrophe after OpenTelemetry has been started

4. Start the application

Be sure that the Jaeger backend is running (step 2) and open http://localhost:16686 in the browser.

Start the app:


After Apostrophe is fully started, refresh the Jaeger UI and you should see some data shown (give it some time).

Open http://localhost:3000 and go check the Jaeger UI for GET operations (again, give it some time and refresh).

You can trace command line tasks as well:

APOS_OPENTELEMETRY=1 node app @namespace/module:taskName

Bonus - Developer's Quality of Life

You may optimize your development experience with a few CLI and npm scripts.

Create the file jaeger in your project root and make it executable:

chmod +x jaeger

Add contents to it:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

set -e

if [[ -z "$1" ]]; then

# Start
function _start {
  docker run -d --name jaeger \
    -p 5775:5775/udp \
    -p 6831:6831/udp \
    -p 6832:6832/udp \
    -p 5778:5778 \
    -p 16686:16686 \
    -p 14268:14268 \
    -p 14250:14250 \
    -p 9411:9411 \

# Stop
function _stop {
  docker stop jaeger
  docker rm jaeger

function _help()
  echo 'USAGE: '
  echo './scripts/jaeger COMMAND'
  echo 'COMMANDS:'
  echo '  start'
  echo '      Start Jaeger in Docker container'
  echo '  stop'
  echo '      Stop Jaeger container and cleanup'
  echo '  help'
  echo '      Show help'
  return 1

if [[ $_ACTION = 'start' ]]; then
  echo "Start Jaeger"
  echo "Jaeger is running at http://localhost:16686"
elif [[ $_ACTION = 'stop' ]]; then
  echo "Shut down Jaeger"

Open your package.json and add the following scripts at the end of the scripts section:

  "scripts": {
    "start:telemetry": "APOS_OPENTELEMETRY=1 node app",
    "jaeger:start": "./jaeger start",
    "jaeger:stop": "./jaeger stop"

Now you can start it:

npm run jaeger:start
npm run start:telemetry

and stop it:

npm run jaeger:stop

Bonus - trace your own application

You can use the tracing API of the OpenTelemetry to trace your own code. Apostrophe exposes self.apos.telemetry. It contains the OpenTelemtry API, some useful helpers and the tracer used internally by the Apostrophe core. You could use it or you could add application level OpenTelemetry API dependency and trace your code as you see fit.

A common scenario using an Apostrophe helper:

// Somewhere in your application code or module.
const telemetry = self.apos.telemetry;
// Create an OpenTelemetry span, that is "connected" (child) to 
// the current active context
const span = telemetry.startSpan('yourSpanName');
span.setAttribute('some', 'attribute');

// Do some work...

// Create a child span of the span above
const child = telemetry.startSpan('yourChildSpanName', span);
child.setAttribute('another', 'attribute');
child.addEvent('some event');

// Do some wore work ...

// End the child span with appropriate status code
child.setStatus({ code: telemetry.api.SpanStatusCode.OK });

// End the parent span with appropriate status code
span.setStatus({ code: telemetry.api.SpanStatusCode.OK });

You can inspect the telemetry namespace exports here.

An example of an internal implementation is available here.