Probe Introduction

In SkyWalking, probe means an agent or SDK library integrated into target system, which take charge of collecting telemetry data including tracing and metrics. Based on the target system tech stack, probe could use very different ways to do so. But ultimately they are same, just collect and reformat data, then send to backend.

In high level, there are three typical groups in all SkyWalking probes.

  • Language based native agent. This kind of agents runs in target service user space, like a part of user codes. Such as SkyWalking Java agent, use -javaagent command line argument to manipulate codes in runtime, manipulate means change and inject user’s codes. Another kind of agents is using some hook or intercept mechanism provided by target libraries. So you can see, these kinds of agents based on languages and libraries.

  • Service Mesh probe. Service Mesh probe collects data from sidecar, control panel in service mesh or proxy. In old days, proxy is only used as ingress of the whole cluster, but with the Service Mesh and sidecar, now we can do observe based on that.

  • 3rd-party instrument library. SkyWalking accepts other popular used instrument libraries data format. It analysis the data, transfer it to SkyWalking formats of trace, metrics or both. This feature starts with accepting Zipkin span data. See Receiver for other tracers to know more.

You don’t need to use Language based native agent and Service Mesh probe at the same time, because they both collect metrics data. As a result of that, your system suffers twice payloads, and the analytic numbers are doubled.

There are several recommend ways in using these probes:

  1. Use Language based native agent only.
  2. Use 3rd-party instrument library only, like Zipkin instrument ecosystem.
  3. Use Service Mesh probe only.
  4. Use Service Mesh probe with Language based native agent or 3rd-party instrument library in tracing status. (Advanced usage)

In addition, let’s example what is the meaning of in tracing status?

In default, Language based native agent and 3rd-party instrument library both send distributed traces to backend, which do analysis and aggregate on those traces. In tracing status means, backend considers these traces as something like logs, just save them, and build the links between traces and metrics, like which endpoint and service does the trace belong?.

What is next?