Troubleshooting your trace data | Honeycomb

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Troubleshooting your trace data

Common Questions when troubleshooting your trace data:

Traces Appear Incomplete or Aren’t Showing Up in the UI  🔗

If you’re not seeing the complete trace, where you seem to be missing spans within the trace, it could be one of several reasons.

Verify the Timestamps on Each Span  🔗

You must set the timestamp to the start of the span and provide the duration of the span as a part of the span record. Within your system, double check that the timestamp is being set correctly. For example, not set to 1970-01-01T00:00:00 or some other unexpected value.

Ensure the Query Time Window is Large Enough  🔗

Once you have verified the timestamps are set correctly, be aware that we currently only locate spans in the time range of the original query. So if, for example, you do a query of “Last 30 minutes” and then select a trace.trace_id, we only locate the spans in that 30 minute window. If some of the span timestamps are older than that, you won’t see them. Ensure the query time window is large enough to show all the spans within your trace.

Check to see if an Intermediate Piece such as the OpenTelemetry Collector is Having Issues  🔗

Honeycomb can accept data in either Honeycomb’s JSON format over HTTP, or as OTLP format over gRPC/HTTP. Make sure that your Exporter is configured to export trace data to Honeycomb. Try running an OpenTelemetry Collector in Docker to confirm that data is being exported correctly.

Honeycomb is not Recognizing My Traces  🔗

Depending on your configuration, field names may be slightly different. In addition, you can manually select columns as tracing fields, as explained in changing the trace schema.

Standard Tracing Fields Legacy Zipkin Fields
trace.span_id id
trace.trace_id traceId
trace.parent_id parentId
duration_ms durationMs
service_name serviceName
name name

When Honeycomb isn’t recognizing your traces, it’s typically caused by a few common pitfalls.

First, to verify that Honeycomb is correctly detecting your trace, check that the trace.trace_id field is hyperlinked. To do this, select trace.trace_id in the GROUP BY window and COUNT in the VISUALIZE window.

If the trace.trace_id field looks like it does below - as a quoted string - Honeycomb is not properly recognizing your traces.

Screenshot of the trace view where the trace.trace_id field appears as a quoted string

Properly Use the Column “trace.parent_id”  🔗

Honeycomb recognizes a dataset as a tracing dataset by the existence of the column “trace.parent_id”. You must send at least one event that has the column “trace.parent_id” in it or Honeycomb will not recognize the dataset as a tracing dataset and will not show traces.

But, remember that root spans should not have the column “trace.parent_id” in order to be recognized as root spans.

This likely raises a question for you: what if I’m sending a traces that only have a single span? As root spans, they’re not allowed to have a “trace.parent_id” column if they’re to be detected properly, so how will my dataset get a trace.parent_id column?

If this is your situation (and it very well may be if you’re experimenting with tracing), just send in any event with a column trace.parent_id. All you need is one event to be sent into Honeycomb with trace.parent_id as a field and the column will be created. Then, Honeycomb will properly recognize your dataset as a tracing dataset.

Alternately, by manually changing the trace schema, you can ensure that the trace schema is recognized.

Verify Field Formats  🔗

Every trace event must have a defined trace identifier (trace.trace_id), a span identifier (trace.span_id), and a duration (duration_ms).

The trace.trace_id and trace.span_id must both be strings; the duration must be a number, measuring milliseconds.

Spans in a Trace Appear Out of Order or Have Strange Time Offsets  🔗

If the tracing view appears to show out of order spans, then there are gaps in the layout of the spans or the root span is missing.

There are a number of reasons why spans in a trace may appear out of order or have strange time offsets.

Make Sure You’re Providing the Start Time of the Span  🔗

When sending trace events into Honeycomb, you must include a “timestamp” field in the event that represents the start time of the span.

If you do not do this, Honeycomb will set the timestamp for the event to when that event was received by our collectors. This could cause the spans in a trace to appear out of order or have strange time offsets.

Verify that the trace.parent_id, trace.trace_id, and trace.span_id are Set Properly  🔗

The root span for any given trace must have no field for “trace.parent_id” in its event. If all of the spans in a trace have a “trace.parent_id”, Honeycomb will not show a root span for that trace.

Honeycomb identifies which span is the root span by its absence of the column “trace.parent_id”. If all of your span events have a “trace.parent_id” column, then Honeycomb assumes the root span is missing.

Thus, first, ensure that your root spans have no “trace.parent_id” field and validate that your child spans have their “trace.parent_id” and “id” set properly as well.

Verify that Duration is Set Properly  🔗

You must include the duration of the span, in milliseconds and in the field durationMs. Verify that this duration is being set properly.