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Announcing Unified Query Builder — Simplifying access to all your telemetry


Andrew Gardner

by Andrew Gardner

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Andrew Gardner

by Andrew Gardner


12-10-2021

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Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz.

It’s 3am, your pager is going off, and you have to figure out why.

You log into Lightstep. You see spikes on your dashboards. You see alerts have been triggered. You need to find out why before you get back to sleep. At 3am (or 3pm) navigating between multiple UIs (or products) to investigate an issue by running ad hoc queries is both time consuming, and mentally exhausting.

With our Unified Query Builder, you don’t need to know explicitly which data type (metrics or traces) contains the answer for whatever investigative question(s) you have; your SREs, your dev team, or even your ops team, can now query across metrics and traces in a single, unified view.

The new Unified Query Builder is now available in Lightstep’s Notebooks (currently in beta), where users can easily document their investigative steps. This will be rolled out throughout the Lightstep Platform as we look to simplify access to all your telemetry in one place.

Why query builders are important

Modern Observability is a single braid of data, and your ability to access this data should be treated in the same way. Correlating activity across multiple data sources is a precondition for actually solving our problems. When you’re firefighting an issue, or trying to troubleshoot what went wrong with your most recent deployment, the speed with which you can access relevant information is critical.

In your observability product, you expect to be able to:

  • Visualize the data that is important to you so you can monitor and alert on it
  • Ask questions about your data so you can investigate changes to application health

For our customers, they are responsible for a variety of things: endpoints, user journeys, the experience of specific customers or regions, and/or specific shared resources in their system. No two customers are the same: for one customer, the “service” they are responsible for may be a collection of endpoints across multiple microservices; for another, a “service” is a single endpoint in a single microservice.

In both cases they’re often writing queries to translate the “things” they care about into dashboards, alerts, and ad-hoc investigative questions.

Lightstep's Query Builder - Unifying metric and trace data

It's hard to make a good query builder that suits such a large and diverse group of needs and users, and it was really important to us to get it right. Query builders run the gamut of complex to specific, powerful to simple, and anywhere in between. The challenges we saw with query builders is ensuring that it balances the needs of the novice and expert user. We wanted to create a solution that is easy for a novice to get started with, but powerful enough for an expert to be able to rely on and have the flexibility they need.

Here are the core user goals we focused on for Lightstep’s Unified Query Builder:

  1. Speed: A user needs to quickly interact with the component to ask a question about their data - across all telemetry. Some users prefer UI selections, while others prefer to use their keyboard to tab through their options. Having a solution that can accommodate both saves precious seconds when a pager goes off at 3am (or 3pm).

UQB v3

  1. More speed: The ability to quickly visualize the output of a query can save precious seconds while investigating and refining your search space. In addition to quickly visualizing a query, autocomplete populates quickly to guide users' faster, so you’re not sitting and waiting for the field to populate, again saving time and mental energy.

UQB2 v2

  1. Flexible for all types of user: Every developer on your team should be able to ask a question about their data quickly, ensuring expert and novice users get to value fast. This means using clear and standard language to describe your telemetry and your query building options without burying you with additional education.

Flexible for all types of users

  1. Easy data exploration: Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. With Lightstep’s Unified Query Builder, you can explore what metrics, data keys and values are available all in one place. Having the ability to “browse” your system can lead you to new discoveries about your data leading to new value for your users and customers.

main view

  1. Maximum expressiveness: Our query builder is able to represent the majority of use cases a user could want to represent in our system (and we're continuing to add more) to:
  2. Monitor
  3. Visualize
  4. Alert on
  5. Build an SLO on
  6. Investigate

Regardless of the specific workflow or the telemetry type in which they want to represent that thing, Lightstep can represent and enhance that data.

Expressivenss coming soon

  1. Context-aware guardrails when you need them in certain workflows / states: To ensure your teams aren’t wasting time trying to create “the perfect query,”™ the query builder can leverage input validation and/or enabling (or disabling) certain input fields for a specific workflow or state:
  2. e.g., we only want to show percentile check boxes when the user is querying a distribution metric or a latency span KPI.
  3. Another example: Certain chart types don’t make sense when you have a group by, so we disable them as an option if your query has a group by.

Context-aware guardrails

Let’s get started!

Want to try out our Unified Query Builder?

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