[ntp:questions] Query about NTP accuracy

Andy Yates andyy1234 at gmail.com
Mon May 25 21:34:35 UTC 2009

Terje Mathisen wrote:
> Andy Yates wrote:
>> Unruh wrote:
>>> Andy Yates <andyy1234 at gmail.com> writes:
>>>> Hal Murray wrote:
>>>>> In article <4a15e001$0$18238$da0feed9 at news.zen.co.uk>,
>>>>>  Andy Yates <andyy1234 at gmail.com> writes:
>>>>>> Does anybody have any figures that shows the effect on accuracy of an
>>>>>> NTP v3 client using a stratum 1 server rather than a stratum 2 or 3
>>>>>> server? It's all in a GE LAN based scenario, commercial stratum 1
>>>>>> servers connected to GPS and stratum 2 and 3 servers are typically
>>>>>> dedicated Linux boxes.
>>>>>> However I'm been pressed to supply an SLA for accuracy. My
>>>>>> argument is
>>>>>> that although you can get your stratum one server to synchronize to
>>>>>> microseconds of UTP, as soon as the client uses NTP v3 over the LAN,
>>>>>> even a GE LAN, then the accuracy degrades and putting well
>>>>>> designed well
>>>>>> specified stratum between the boxes is not going to decrease accuracy
>>>>>> sufficiently to warrant purchasing many stratum one appliances.
>>>>> What sort of accuracy are you interested in?  1 ms?  10 ms?  100 ms?
>>>> Hi Hal
>>>> Its up to us to specify what we think the SLA should be - the guide is
>>>> "as accurate as possible"!
>>> That is of course completely idiotic. They do NOT want it as accurate as
>>> possible. That would cost them millions of dollars and is not in fact
>>> needed. What are they using the time for? what kind of machines are they
>>> ( Windows, linux, BSD, special home grown OS?)
>>>>> How stable is your temperature?  (Both the room and the CPU load.)
>>> ntp is terrible if anything varies ( absurdly long settling times).
>>>> Temperature will be very stable, the DC is the very well specified and
>>>> scrupulously engineered - no cables blocking air flow etc. Generally
>>>> speaking the CPU is over specified.
>>>>> What is the load on the LAN between the clients and servers?
>>>>> (Delay is not a problem.  Variation in delay is a problem.)
>>>> The NTP will be on a separate management LAN to the production traffic
>>>> so not subject to the variances that application load has on the
>>>> network.
>>>>> I suggest you measure it.  Start with your current system.
>>>>> Setup a box as a ntpd system and tell it to use several target boxes
>>>>> as servers and turn on logging.  peerstats will tell you the
>>>>> difference
>>>>> between your local clock and the target system.
>>>> I'll look at the current NTP infrastructure however its completely
>>>> different to the new. The old has 3 geographically diverse GPS
>>>> receivers
>>>> plus a GPS and radio source on the roof of the data centre and we use
>>>> network components to provide the intermediate strata between stratum
>>>> one and client - and have not really had many issues after almost 10
>>>> years of use. However, requirements are changing and we will
>>>> probably be
>>>> using dedicated stratum 2/3 servers as required.
>>> Does teh GPS have PPS ( puse per second) or are they just using the nmea
>>> time signal? Radio about as bad as GPS with just NMEA for timing.
>> Hi Unruh
>> it uses IRIG-B but can use PPS amongst others - However I should have
>> said "as accurate as possible using a well designed NTP system". Our
>> stratum zero sources and stratum 1 sources will be v.accurate - its the
>> distribution via NTP that were trying to get our heads around.
> Andy, you probably know that several dedicated NTP servers have puny
> cpus, so they can't handle too many client?
> Any PC manufactured within the last 15 years, i.e. Pentium and up, is
> capable of handling at least 100K clients, so the way I setup the ntp
> service at Norway's largest corporation was to have three pairs of
> FreeBSD boxes, in three widely separated locations.
> Each pair has one Oncore UT+ timing receiver (capable of 15-35 ns
> accuracy) connected to one of the servers, but already configured into
> the other server as well, so if we have a server crash, the GPS serial
> cable can be moved to the alternate box.
> I also have 3-4 NTP appliance servers, as well as a couple of home-made
> units (one TAPR-based Oncore eval board and one Garmin 18 which uses USB
> power). Finally there's an Endrun CDMA receiver in the US.
> These "extra" resources are used as backup servers for the six primary
> boxes, along with a number of ntp pool servers.
> The key idea is that all six official servers are more than strong
> enough to handle the maximum possible load, and with so many independent
> clock courses, and 6-way redundancy for every single client machine, the
> likelihood of serving bogus time is sufficiently small, even though the
> total cost of the setup was very reasonable.
> Terje
> PS. Previous to this setup, all three NTP appliance servers failed at
> least once, and failed wrong, i.e. they kept responding but with the
> wrong time! Each time this happened, we found one or two critical
> servers that had been rebooted, then used ntpdate to pick the bogus
> server to step the time, and then refused to listen to the two others
> which at that point were "clearly wrong" :-(
> Today we never use ntpdate of course, just regular ntp allowing a single
> (large) startup step.
Many thanks for all the answers guys - I think I have enough ammunition
to negotiate a rational SLA and some good insights into how others
engineer NTP it and what to look out for.

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