Stackdriver Trace API

The Stackdriver Trace API allows you to send and retrieve latency data to and from Stackdriver Trace. This API provides low-level interfaces for interacting directly with the feature. For some languages, you have the option to make use of OpenCensus, a set of open source tracing and stats instrumentation libraries that work with multiple backends.

By default, Stackdriver Trace collects data from any App Engine application where the feature is enabled. For other applications, use the Stackdriver Trace API to send latency data to Stackdriver Trace. This includes applications you run locally, run on Compute Engine or run in hosting environments completely separate from Google Cloud Platform (GCP). You can also use the Stackdriver Trace API to customize or enhance the data sent from App Engine by default. Data sent to Stackdriver Trace using this API is available for display, reporting and analysis in the Google Cloud Platform Console.

Versions and interfaces

There are two versions of the API:

  • Stackdriver Trace API v1 is fully supported.
  • Stackdriver Trace API v2 is in Beta release.

Both APIs have two interfaces:

  • v1 REST and v2 REST interfaces let you send and retrieve latency data in JSON format over HTTP.

  • v1 and v2 RPC interfaces let you to send and retrieve latency data using gRPC.

For more details on how to automatically collect traces from an application, go to the Client libraries page.

Data model

The Stackdriver Trace API defines two entities: traces and spans.

Traces

A trace describes the amount of time it takes an application to complete a single operation. For example, it can describe how long it takes for the application to process an incoming request from a user and return a response. Each trace consists of one or more spans, each of which describes the amount of time it takes to complete a sub-operation.

In the v1 API, traces are represented by the Trace resource in the REST interface and the Trace message in the RPC interface. A trace entity contains fields that specify the associated Cloud Platform project as well as its subspans.

In the v2 API, the concept of a trace is still present, but there is no explicit trace object. The trace ID you include in your spans identifies the associated trace.

Spans

A span describes the amount of time it takes an application to complete a sub-operation in a trace. For example, it can describe how long it takes for the application to perform a round-trip RPC call to another system when handling a request, or how long it takes to perform another task that is part of a larger operation.

In the v1 API, spans are represented by the TraceSpan resource in the REST interface and the TraceSpan message in the RPC interface. A span entity contains fields that specify its type, its start and end times, and labels that describe it. A span can be nested within a trace. If so, it specifies its parent span.

In the v2 API, spans are represented by the Span resource. The labels in the v1 API spans are replaced by attributes of specific kinds in v2.

Operations

You can do the following with the Stackdriver Trace API:

  • Send traces to Stackdriver Trace
  • Update existing traces (v1 only)
  • Get lists of traces (v1 only)
  • Get the details of a single trace (v1 only)

The v2 API only supports sending trace data. There are no methods to retrieve the data.

Send traces

In the v1 API, you can send one or more new traces to Stackdriver Trace by assembling trace entities in your client application and then passing them to the REST patchTraces or RPC PatchTraces methods.

In the v2 API, you send trace data to Stackdriver Trace by using the REST batchWrite method or the RCP batchWriteSpans method. The V2 REST API method createSpan doesn't offer any advantages over batchWrite.

Update existing traces

In the v1 API, you can update one or more new traces in Stackdriver Trace by updating existing trace entities and then passing them to the REST patchTraces or RPC PatchTraces methods. This works in a similar way to sending new traces. However, if the ID of a trace that you send matches that of an existing trace, any fields in the existing trace and its spans are overwritten by the provided values, and any new fields provided are merged with the existing trace data.

In the v2 API, there are no trace objects to update. Of course, you can add additional spans to a trace.

Get a list of traces

In the v1 API, you can get a list of traces from Stackdriver Trace by sending a request to the REST list or RPC ListTraces methods. You can pass a filter condition to these requests to retrieve only those traces that were sent between a specific start and end time. The list and ListTracesRequest methods return a set of trace entities.

In the v2 API, you cannot retrieve traces or their spans.

Get trace details

In the v1 API, after you get a list of traces, you can get the details for a particular trace by sending a request to the REST get or RPC GetTraceRequest methods. The request specifies the trace by its ID. These methods return a single trace entity.

In the v2 API, you cannot retrieve traces or their spans.

Authorization

To use the Stackdriver Trace API, a user or service account must have authorization to do so. Cloud Identity and Access Management defines permissions and roles you can use for authorization. For more information, see Stackdriver Trace access control.

When running on GCP, authorization is normally provided by default. When running outside of GCP, you obtain authorization by creating a service account in your GCP project and copying the private key credentials for that service account to the computer with the application using the Stackdriver Trace API.

For more information, see Setting up authentication.

Explore the API

You can use the in-page Try It! feature in the REST interface documentation to explore the API functionality. Try It! helps you understand how to assemble the data that you pass to the API, as well as the structure and content of the data it returns. See the documentation of the v1 API list method for an example.

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