OpenTelemetry for the Docker CLI

Introduced in Docker Engine version 26.1.0

The Docker CLI supports OpenTelemetry instrumentation for emitting metrics about command invocations. This is disabled by default. You can configure the CLI to start emitting metrics to the endpoint that you specify. This allows you to capture information about your docker command invocations for more insight into your Docker usage.

Exporting metrics is opt-in, and you control where data is being sent by specifying the destination address of the metrics collector.

What is OpenTelemetry?

OpenTelemetry, or OTel for short, is an open observability framework for creating and managing telemetry data, such as traces, metrics, and logs. OpenTelemetry is vendor- and tool-agnostic, meaning that it can be used with a broad variety of Observability backends.

Support for OpenTelemetry instrumentation in the Docker CLI means that the CLI can emit information about events that take place, using the protocols and conventions defined in the Open Telemetry specification.

How it works

The Docker CLI doesn't emit telemetry data by default. Only if you've set an environment variable on your system will Docker CLI attempt to emit OpenTelemetry metrics, to the endpoint that you specify.


The variable specifies the endpoint of an OpenTelemetry collector, where telemetry data about docker CLI invocation should be sent. To capture the data, you'll need an OpenTelemetry collector listening on that endpoint.

The purpose of a collector is to receive the telemetry data, process it, and exports it to a backend. The backend is where the telemetry data gets stored. You can choose from a number of different backends, such as Prometheus or InfluxDB.

Some backends provide tools for visualizing the metrics directly. Alternatively, you can also run a dedicated frontend with support for generating more useful graphs, such as Grafana.


To get started capturing telemetry data for the Docker CLI, you'll need to:

  • Set the DOCKER_CLI_OTEL_EXPORTER_OTLP_ENDPOINT environment variable to point to an OpenTelemetry collector endpoint
  • Run an OpenTelemetry collector that receives the signals from CLI command invocations
  • Run a backend for storing the data received from the collector

The following Docker Compose file bootstraps a set of services to get started with OpenTelemetry. It includes an OpenTelemetry collector that the CLI can send metrics to, and a Prometheus backend that scrapes the metrics off the collector.

name: cli-otel
    image: prom/prometheus
      - "--config.file=/etc/prometheus/prom.yml"
      # Publish the Prometheus frontend on localhost:9091
      - 9091:9090
    restart: always
      # Store Prometheus data in a volume:
      - prom_data:/prometheus
      # Mount the prom.yml config file
      - ./prom.yml:/etc/prometheus/prom.yml
    image: otel/opentelemetry-collector
    restart: always
      - prometheus
      - 4317:4317
      # Mount the otelcol.yml config file
      - ./otelcol.yml:/etc/otelcol/config.yaml


This service assumes that the following two configuration files exist alongside compose.yml:

  • otelcol.yml
    # Receive signals over gRPC and HTTP
    # Establish an endpoint for Prometheus to scrape from
        endpoint: ""
          receivers: [otlp]
          exporters: [prometheus]
  • prom.yml
    # Configure Prometheus to scrape the OpenTelemetry collector endpoint
      - job_name: "otel-collector"
        scrape_interval: 1s
          - targets: ["otelcol:8889"]

With these files in place:

  1. Start the Docker Compose services:

    $ docker compose up
  2. Configure Docker CLI to export telemetry to the OpenTelemetry collector.

    $ export DOCKER_CLI_OTEL_EXPORTER_OTLP_ENDPOINT=http://localhost:4317
  3. Run a docker command to trigger the CLI into sending a metric signal to the OpenTelemetry collector.

    $ docker version
  4. To view telemetry metrics created by the CLI, open the Prometheus expression browser by going to http://localhost:9091/graph.

  5. In the Query field, enter command_time_milliseconds_total, and execute the query to see the telemetry data.

Available metrics

Docker CLI currently exports a single metric, command.time, which measures the execution duration of a command in milliseconds. This metric has the following attributes:

  • the name of the command
  • command.status.code: the exit code of the command
  • command.stderr.isatty: true if stderr is attached to a TTY
  • command.stdin.isatty: true if stdin is attached to a TTY
  • command.stdout.isatty: true if stdout is attached to a TTY