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Sumo Logic

Filter and Shape Trace Data

You may ask yourself, "What if I don't want to send all my trace data to Sumo Logic?" Our OpenTelemetry collector is uniquely capable of shaping trace data at output, according to user-defined custom rules. You can define rules in a cascading fashion, assign different volume pool sizes to each rule, and give them different priorities.

Output-level filtering ensures you will always have valuable, useful, and cost-optimized data for backend analysis. Most users want to filter tracing data to help with scaling, privacy, or cost optimization for large environments.

For best results, perform filtering on a central instance of Aggregating OpenTelemetry Collector (see the following diagram), as it gives possibilities to act on whole trace, rather than individual span level. The aggregating collector can receive data from local collectors/agents or directly from tracing client.

env multiple agents bd.png


An installed and running OpenTelemetry Collector version v0.38.1-sumo or higher. For details, see either:

Configuring filters and traffic shaping rules

Modify the configuration for the Aggregating OpenTelemetry Collector to enable filters and create traffic shaping rules.

To enable the filter, replace your existing cascading_filter: configuration in processors: section of your OT configuration (values.yaml in Kubernetes) with the following snippet provided (after modifying it for your needs) and apply configuration by Helm upgrade (in Kubernetes) and restart.

The cascading filter combines the spans into traces and then applies a three-stage traffic shaping:

pattern filtering > probabilistic sampling > tail-based filtering

You can modify to adjust each of the sections to enable and adjust each of required stages. 

  • Pattern Filtering (trace_reject_filters). Filters out traces where at least one span matches the pattern. For example, you can filter health-checks this way. All remaining traffic is passed to next defined logic
  • Probabilistic sampling (probabilistic_filtering_rate) . Takes the traffic after initial filtering and randomly select complete traces in that way that overall resulting traffic would not exceed defined number of spans per second. All remaining traffic is passed to next defined logic. You should always have some good sample of all traffic included here for good representation of aggregation metrics.
  • Tail-based filtering (trace_accept_filters). Takes traffic remaining after initial filtering/sampling and picks up to defined number spans per second as specified in the parameters from traces that were longer than defined number of seconds or have at least defined number of errors. The rest of the traffic is disregarded, if that's the last stage (as in the default configuration).

Here's an example configuration that:

  • Filters all traces where at least one span has /healthcheck as operation name
  • Passes 100 spans/sec max of other traffic in random, in a probabilistic manner
  • Passes:
  • up to 500 spans/sec of traces longer than 3 seconds
  • up to 400 spans/sec of traces with 2 or more error spans
  • up to 300 spans/sec of traces where at least one span comes from login-service
    # 1. Pattern filtering
    # Adjust the filters as needed
       - name: filter_out_pattern
         name_pattern: "/healtcheck" # <- set to filter out spans with name matching this pattern
    # 2. Probabilistic sampling  
    # Adjust the limit as needed
    probabilistic_filtering_rate: 100 # <- output limit for this rule in spans/sec
    # 3. Tail-based filtering
    # Adjust as needed
      # Adjust the duration threshold and limit as needed
      - name: tail-based-duration
          min_duration: 3s      # <- traces longer then this will qualify to be sent
        spans_per_second: 500   # <- output limit for this rule
      # Adjust number of errors and limit as needed
      - name: tail-based-errors
          min_number_of_errors: 2 # <- traces with at least this number of errors will qualify to be sent
        spans_per_second: 400     # <- output limit for this rule
      # Adjust number of errors and limit as needed
      - name: tail-based-attributes
        attributes:               # <- traces with at least one span or resource
          - key:     #    matching this attribute will qualify to be sent
              - login-service     # <- pass all traces where at least one span belongs to "login-service" service
        spans_per_second: 300     # <- output limit for this rule

If you are using non-standard configuration template,  ensure cascading_filter and batch are present in the list of processors:

# Include the processor in the tracing pipeline as needed
      receivers: ...
      processors: [..., cascading_filter, batch]
      exporters: ...

By default, cascading filter waits for 30 seconds before making the decision and can hold up to 100000 traces in memory (if available). This parameters can be fine-tuned using decision_wait and num_traces configuration options. More details on the usage is available at cascadingfilterprocessor page. For examples, see:

Resource sizing guide

Because trace filtering requires action on the whole trace, collector buffers the incoming data in memory before making the decision. This impacts the resource usage which must be factored when planning the usage of available memory and CPU. For a collector that has cascading filter enabled, we recommend:

  • 1 CPU core per each 25,000 spans/sec  on the input
  • 4 GB RAM per each 10,000 spans/sec on the input

For example, when 50,000 spans per second are anticipated on the collector input, there should be at least 2 CPU cores and 20 GB RAM available. The actual numbers depend on a number of factors:

  • size of spans (e.g. number of attributes, size of span events, etc.)
  • cascading filter configuration (e.g. decision_wait duration)
Measuring the actual number of spans/sec on the input

To verify the actual number of spans on the input, OpenTelemetry Collector own metrics can be used (available under http://<COLLECTOR_HOST>:8888/metrics in Prometheus/OpenMetrics format). Those could be self-scraped or checked manually. Among the metrics available, there is otelcol_receiver_accepted_spans, which provides the total number of spans that were received by the collector. This value can be observed over time or divided by collector runtime (available in otelcol_process_uptime metric).


When enabled, cascading filter emits logs on startup which indicate the rules that were applied. For example:

2021-11-18T19:50:23.451+0100    info    cascadingfilterprocessor@v0.38.0/processor.go:132    Adding trace reject rule    {"kind": "processor", "name": "cascading_filter", "name": "healthcheck-rule"}
2021-11-18T19:50:23.451+0100    info    cascadingfilterprocessor@v0.38.0/processor.go:169    Adding trace accept rule    {"kind": "processor", "name": "cascading_filter", "name": "test1", "spans_per_second": 50}
2021-11-18T19:50:23.451+0100    info    cascadingfilterprocessor@v0.38.0/processor.go:169    Adding trace accept rule    {"kind": "processor", "name": "cascading_filter", "name": "test2", "spans_per_second": 50}
2021-11-18T19:50:23.451+0100    info    cascadingfilterprocessor@v0.38.0/processor.go:185    Setting total spans per second limit    {"kind": "processor", "name": "cascading_filter", "spans_per_second": 100}
2021-11-18T19:50:23.451+0100    info    cascadingfilterprocessor@v0.38.0/processor.go:202    Setting probabilistic filtering rate    {"kind": "processor", "name": "cascading_filter", "probabilistic_filtering_rate": 8}

When cascading filter is processing data, it emits a number of metrics that describe actions made by it. Such as otelcol_processor_cascading_filter_count_final_decision or otelcol_processor_cascading_filter_count_policy_decision. They are available at the OpenTelemetry Collector metrics endpoint (http://<OPENTELEMETRY_COLLECTOR_ADDRESS>:8888/metrics) or for Kubernetes through collected metrics (Helm chart flag otelcol.metrics.enabled set to true).