Move Over Ewan and Charlie, We are Closing the Loop (with OpenTelemetry)

In October 2021 you may have seen a blog post covering the journey of four intrepid Splunk motorcycle riders. It was a tale of how they conquered some of the harshest conditions the entire west coast of the country has to offer. All of which was to raise awareness of the fantastic charity YoungMinds… Well, they have only gone and decided to close the loop!! 

Splunkers at Land's End

On the 4th of October 2023, riders Mark, Owen, and John will be navigating the South and East Coast, through 33 English and Scottish Counties, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. The route avoids all motorways and main bridges over coastal inlets and river mouths to really make it difficult! The route covers ~2000 miles over 4 days and will feel the might of the East Coast weather.

Sadly this time Murray (the brain) behind the previous ride is unable to join…in person, but will be there in a squishy form. 

Now, what's this got to do with Splunk I hear you say. Well, last time you may remember the riders utilised the Healthkit App for Splunk in order to log their telemetry of the road and provide some deep analysis of both the journey and the rider. Well, this time it's completely different, for the better, this time it's OTel time.


OTel Me More…

You may have seen Splunk and the wider industry talking about OpenTelemetry, well this is because it is fast becoming the emerging de facto standard for the real-time streaming of metrics, events, logs & traces due to its ease of use and suitability for speed and volume of data.

Now, with no smartphone and app, there's a need for some hardware. Not only that, the hardware would need to be small enough to fit on a motorcycle safely and would need to emit real-time, streaming metrics on a best-efforts basis, and have the ability for local caching given some of the remote areas

Popular hardware such as a Raspberry Pi Zero, despite being compact, may struggle to get the power it needs for the task. A microcontroller, however, would provide low power usage and robustness of code but presents its own challenges with a smaller user knowledge base compared to Raspberry Pi hardware.

However, that was no challenge for the amazing Splunk mind of John! And the perfect solution was born! 

Raspberry Pi Zero

This option not only allowed the collection of the telemetry but more importantly for a data-interested mind, the data streams in real-time to Splunk Observability Cloud platform. John's solution is a lightweight, use-case-specific interpretation of the OpenTelemetry specification, allowing the hardware to send data using OpenTelemetry Protocol (OTLP) and some memory wizardry and readily available hardware. Onboard, the device can take not only relay GPS readings (latitude, longitude, altitude, etc.) but also some kinetics (acceleration, gyroscopic) and pass these out in a very efficient OpenTelemetry payload (details to follow in part 2!).

Motorcycle Telemetry Dashboard

Splunk Enterprise is able to not only report on the metric data but then also visualize it in many different meaningful ways, such as  pairing metrics to create a map visualization:

Map Visualization

If you're interested in learning more about the cause, there's more detail here.

Please join us in the next part of this blog where we will deep dive into John’s design and learn more about the code used as well as the other world applications of his solution. As an exciting extra this year, we will also be able to track the riders in real-time! So keep your eyes peeled for the live dashboard and the next blog.

Ben Lovley
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Ben Lovley

Ben is a senior solutions engineer for Aerospace, Defence and Other Government Departments. (OGD). He has spent most of his adult life in Defence supporting OGDs in Incident Response and Threat Hunt. Ben is a long term Splunk user both professionally and in his down time creating things like the Splunk Motorcycle and recent Hackathon series

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