OpenTracing bridgeedit

OpenTracing is discontinued in favor of OpenTelemetry. This Elastic APM OpenTracing bridge is deprecated. Consider using the OpenTelemetry bridge instead.

The Elastic APM OpenTracing bridge allows creating Elastic APM transactions and spans, using the OpenTracing API. In other words, it translates the calls to the OpenTracing API to Elastic APM and thus allows for reusing existing instrumentation.

For more information about OpenTracing, see the OpenTracing website.


OpenTracing support for the Elastic APM Node.js Agent is provided via a separate module called elastic-apm-node-opentracing.

This module requires that the Elastic APM Node.js Agent is installed separately. To ensure that both dependencies are added to the application, install them like so:

npm install elastic-apm-node elastic-apm-node-opentracing --save

OpenTracing vs Elastic APM terminologiesedit

Elastic APM differentiates between transactions and spans. In the context of OpenTracing, a transaction can be thought of as a special kind of span.

Because OpenTracing natively only has the concept of spans, the Elastic APM OpenTracing bridge will automatically create either Elastic transactions or Elastic spans behind the scenes. There are a set of rules that determine which is created:

  1. If agent.currentTransaction is null, a new Elastic transaction will be created when calling tracer.startSpan().
  2. If agent.currentTransaction holds an existing transaction, but that transaction is ended, a new Elastic transaction will be created when calling tracer.startSpan().
  3. In all other cases, a new Elastic span will be created when calling tracer.startSpan().


It’s important that the agent is started before you require any other modules in your Node.js application - i.e. before express, http, etc.

This means that you should probably require and start the agent in your application’s main file (usually index.js, server.js or app.js).

Here’s a simple example where we first start the agent and then initialize the OpenTracing bridge:

// Add this to the VERY top of the first file loaded in your app
const agent = require('elastic-apm-node').start({
  // Override service name from package.json
  // Allowed characters: a-z, A-Z, 0-9, -, _, and space
  serviceName: '',

  // Use if APM Server requires a token
  secretToken: '',

  // Use if APM Server uses API keys for authentication
  apiKey: '',

  // Set custom APM Server URL (default:
  serverUrl: '',

const Tracer = require('elastic-apm-node-opentracing')

// Pass the Elastic APM agent as an argument to the OpenTracing tracer
const tracer = new Tracer(agent)

const span = tracer.startSpan('my-first-span')
// ... do some work ...


tracer = new Tracer(agent)

The elastic-apm-node-opentracing module exposes a Tracer class which is OpenTracing compatible.

When instantiating the Tracer object, an instance of the Elastic APM Node.js Agent must be provided as its only argument.

For details about the tracer API, see the opentracing-javascript API docs.

Elastic APM specific tagsedit

Elastic APM defines some tags which have special meaning and which will not be stored as regular tags. Instead, they will be used to set certain metadata on the transaction or span.

The following tags have special meaning for both transactions and spans:

  • type - sets the type of the transaction or span, for example request for transactions or db.mysql.query for spans

The following tags only have special meaning on the span if the underlying Elastic APM object is a transaction:

  • result - sets the result of the transaction (defaults to success)
  • error - sets the result of the transaction to error if the tag value is true (defaults to success)
  • http.status_code - sets the result of the transaction. E.g. If the tag value is 200, the transaction result will be set to HTTP 2xx (defaults to success)
  • - sets the user id, appears in the "User" tab in the transaction details in the Elastic APM app
  • - sets the user email, appears in the "User" tab in the transaction details in the Elastic APM app
  • user.username - sets the user name, appears in the "User" tab in the transaction details in the Elastic APM app


Not all features of the OpenTracing API are supported.

Context propagationedit

This bridge only supports the formats opentracing.FORMAT_TEXT_MAP and opentracing.FORMAT_HTTP_HEADERS. opentracing.FORMAT_BINARY is currently not supported.

Span Referencesedit

Currently, this bridge only supports opentracing.REFERENCE_CHILD_OF references. Other references, like opentracing.REFERENCE_FOLLOWS_FROM, are not supported yet.


The span.setBaggageItem() method is not supported. Baggage items are silently dropped.


Only error logging is supported. Logging an Error object on the OpenTracing span will create an Elastic APM error. Example:

const err = new Error('boom!')

  event: 'error',
  'error.object': err

Other logs are silently dropped.