Distributed Tracing with Apache Camel and OpenTracing

A blog post by Gary Brown

apache camel | apm | opentracing

In this post we will discuss how the OpenTracing standard is being supported in the upcoming release of Apache Camel (version 2.19).

OpenTracing is the vendor neutral open standard for distributed tracing, supported across many languages and with a growing number of tracer implementations and framework integrations. To illustrate the vendor neutrality, we will demonstrate two examples, each using a different OpenTracing compliant Tracer.

2017 03 24 camel loanbroker jms instance
Figure 1: Distributed trace for the Camel Loan Broker JMS example

How to Instrument a Camel Application

The first thing to note is that it is not necessary to modify the Camel routes to have them instrumented using an OpenTracing compliant Tracer. The only requirement is to add some relevant dependencies and initialize the tracer on the CamelContext.

This can be achieved in three ways:

Explicit initialization

The dependencies required to explicitly initialize OpenTracing are


and any other dependencies specific to the OpenTracing compliant Tracer implementation being used.

Then either add the initialization of the tracer to the Spring configuration,

  <bean id="tracer" class="..."/>

  <bean id="ottracer" class="org.apache.camel.opentracing.OpenTracingTracer">
    <property name="tracer" ref="tracer"/>

or create an observer on the CamelContextStartingEvent to trigger the initialization of the tracer,

public class MyApplication {
    public void setupCamel(@Observes CamelContextStartingEvent event) {
	// Location for initializing the Tracer if not implicitly loaded
        OpenTracingTracer ottracer = new OpenTracingTracer();

Spring Boot Annotation

The dependencies required to use OpenTracing in a Spring Boot application are simply


and any other dependencies specific to the OpenTracing compliant Tracer implementation being used. Then simply annotate the application using CamelOpenTracing:

public class MyApplication {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
	// Location for initializing the Tracer if not implicitly loaded
        SpringApplication.run(MyApplication.class, args);

Java Agent

This approach uses a javaagent to handle the initialization, so does not require any code/configuration changes. The dependencies required are:


Changes are also required in the pom.xml to download the opentracing-agent.jar and then execute the application supplying the java agent on the command line.

Instrumenting Some Examples

This section will show how two examples can be instrumented using two different OpenTracing compliant Tracer implementations.

The first is a new example introduced to demonstrate the three ways a Camel application can be instrumented with OpenTracing, and will be updated to use the Zipkin project.

The second shows how an existing example (Loan Broker JMS) can be instrumented using the Hawkular APM project.

Camel OpenTracing Example

This section will show how the new example, which uses a simple logging tracer implementation by default, can be changed to use Zipkin.

First edit each of the client/service1/service2 pom.xml files to:

  • Add properties

  • Replace the camel-example-opentracing-loggingtracer dependency with:


Then the following Java code changes are required:

  • Common code for ClientApplication, Service1Application and Service2Application

import brave.opentracing.BraveTracer;
import io.opentracing.Tracer;
import zipkin.Span;
import zipkin.reporter.AsyncReporter;
import zipkin.reporter.Reporter;
import zipkin.reporter.urlconnection.URLConnectionSender;

    public static Tracer initTracer() {
        System.out.println("Using Zipkin Tracer");
        String zipkinServerUrl = String.format("%s/api/v1/spans", System.getenv("ZIPKIN_SERVER_URL"));
        Reporter<Span> reporter = AsyncReporter.builder(URLConnectionSender.create(zipkinServerUrl)).build();
        brave.Tracer tracer = brave.Tracer.newBuilder().localServiceName("SERVICE_NAME").reporter(reporter).build();
        return BraveTracer.wrap(tracer);
Don’t forget to change the SERVICE_NAME to something appropriate (e.g. client, service1 and service2 respectively).
  • In ClientApplication.java add ottracer.setTracer(initTracer()), e.g.

        OpenTracingTracer ottracer = new OpenTracingTracer();
  • In Service1Application.java, simply add the @Bean annotation above the initTracer() method.

  • In Service2Application.java, add the tracer from initTracer() to the registry, e.g.

        Main main = new Main();
        main.bind("tracer", initTracer());

Once the changes have all been made, compile the example using mvn compile from the examples/camel-example-opentracing folder. Next step is to start the Zipkin server:

docker run -p 9411:9411 openzipkin/zipkin

Then follow the instructions in the README.md for running the three applications. Before running each command, you will need to run:

export ZIPKIN_SERVER_URL=http://localhost:9411

After the example has executed, start up the Zipkin UI in a brower. Select the client service and you should see some traces:

2017 03 24 camel opentracing example zipkin
Figure 2: Zipkin trace instance showing communication between client, service1 and service2

Camel Loan Broker JMS Example

The standard example can be found in examples/camel-example-loan-broker-jms folder within the Apache Camel source code. To enable tracing, against the Hawkular APM server, you need to edit the pom.xml based on the differences shown here . This patch file can be used to quickly update the example.

These differences can be broken down into three main changes:

  • Added dependencies, including the camel-opentracing component, opentracing-agent and hawkular-apm (OpenTracing client and REST client publisher)

  • Retrieval of the opentracing-agent.jar, which is placed in a local lib folder for subsequent use

  • Changes to the exec-maven-plugin configuration to enable the services to be started with the opentracing-agent.jar (using mvn exec:exec instead of mvn exec:java)

To try out the example, it is first necessary to start the Hawkular APM server:

docker run -p 8180:8080 jboss/hawkular-apm-server-dev

The next step is to open up two command windows and setup the environment variables in each:

export HAWKULAR_APM_URI=http://localhost:8180

Then run the following in the first window:

mvn compile
mvn exec:java -PQueue.LoanBroker

Once fully started, then run the following in the second window:

mvn exec:java -PQueue.Client

After the client has finished, open a browser window and log in using username admin password password, and view the Distributed Tracing page to view the dependencies between the JMS endpoints:

2017 03 24 camel loanbroker jms dependencies
Figure 3: Service endpoint dependencies for the loan broker JMS example

Selecting the Show 1 Instance(s) Details button will show the trace instance shown in Figure 1 above.


This post has shown how OpenTracing can be used to provide distributed tracing capabilities for Camel applications. This capability will be introduced in version 2.19 of Apache Camel, but we would encourage anyone interested in this functionality to obtain a snapshot version to try it out. If you find any issues, or would like additional capabilities prior to the release, then please get in touch.

For any Apache Camel users currently using the camel-zipkin component we would encourage you to try out the new camel-opentracing component with the brave-opentracing bridge.

Published by Gary Brown on 24 March 2017


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