What Could Go Wrong with a GraphQL Query and Can OpenTelemetry Help?


Authors:   Sonja Chevre, Ahmet Soormally


OpenTelemetry can help monitor GraphQL queries in production and improve troubleshooting for developers and SREs.
  • GraphQL is a query language and server-side runtime that provides a monolithic facade on top of complex microservice architecture
  • Using GraphQL introduces new challenges when isolating failures and troubleshooting performance issues
  • OpenTelemetry can help monitor and improve troubleshooting for GraphQL queries in production
  • The RED method can be used to monitor the health and performance of distributed systems
  • Instrumenting GraphQL services with OpenTelemetry can provide distributed traces for monitoring
Imagine a travel business with multiple microservices represented by GraphQL types. With a shared schema for both producers and consumers, GraphQL can conveniently expose these microservices as a combined API product. However, with multiple consumers, monitoring and troubleshooting performance issues can become overwhelming. OpenTelemetry can help by providing distributed traces for monitoring and improving troubleshooting for developers and SREs.


APIs are the building blocks of our modern world. As the world becomes more interconnected, we need reliable and performant APIs to ensure the best experience for our end users. Many developers are starting to use GraphQL, a query language, and server-side runtime, to provide a monolithic facade on top of their complex microservice architecture. In turn, making their next-generation APIs fast, flexible, and developer-friendly. But using GraphQL also introduces many new challenges when isolating failures and troubleshooting performance issues. Can OpenTelemetry help? How good is OpenTelemetry support for GraphQL right now? What needs to be improved? For the uninitiated, we will give a brief introduction to GraphQL as a technology. Then we will investigate common challenges developers and SREs might encounter when running GraphQL in production. For each of these issues, we will discuss where OpenTelemetry could have helped and what needs to be improved to make it even more valuable for the community.