[ntp:questions] Setting Up NTP Subnet

Bill Myers whmyers at gmail.com
Wed Mar 8 16:07:08 UTC 2006

On 3/8/06, Danny Mayer <mayer at ntp.isc.org> wrote:
> Bill Myers wrote:
> > *Thank you for your response.  I've included some additional thoughts on
> > my perspective below.  As you can see, I've been thinking through this
> > some and have formulated some opinions and rationale behind my
> > opinions.  Maybe I just need to be told I'm going off the deep end! *
> >
> > On 3/7/06, *Danny Mayer* <mayer at ntp.isc.org <mailto:mayer at ntp.isc.org>>
> > wrote:
> >
> >     Bill Myers wrote:
> >     >  I have questions regarding best practices on architecture of NTP
> >     subnets.
> >     > I've thoroughly read "Notes on Setting up a NTP subnet" from the
> >     NTP sites.
> >     >
> >     > Is there a need for multiple external time source
> >     TECHNOLOGIES.  That is, is
> >     > it sufficient to use multiple (8) GPS receivers with ACTS dial
> backup
> >     > and Rubidium clocks?   This is a sizeable investment for the
> >     infrastructure,
> >     > but is it the right way?  Is it necessary or desirable to have
> >     other sources
> >     > such as radio and/or Internet?
> >     >
> >
> >     I don't think that there is any specific reason to require this. I
> don't
> >     think you gain or lose anything by having different technology
> sources
> >     or identical technology sources. Even on identical ones from the
> same
> >     manufacturer you will get slightly different results just due to the
> >     manufacturing process. Quality controls on the manufacturing have
> >     tolerances for what will be allowed but that's a range and your
> >     gizmo is
> >     going to be anywhere in that range.
> >
> >
> > *I'm concerned that ultimately, GPS is a single source of time that
> > could be a single point of failure or intentional blackout due to a
> > perceived security condition by government or military authorities.  I
> > didn't really mean different technologies as much as different,
> > independent sources.  For example, the documentation I have for a well
> > known Stratum 1 NTP site shows two GPS, two WWVB, two Loran-C,
> > plus quartz and Cesium clocks.  *
> >
> IIRC, each GPS satellite has it's own atomic clock which is used for
> signalling position and time. Of course you could have multiple GPS
> receivers receiving from the same satellite.
> The documentation is likely to be from Dave Mill's lab or NIST so you
> shouldn't read too much into that as they test ntp across a large number
> of different pieces of hardware.


>> In case you have not picked up on it, I'm talking about an appliance
> here.
> >> I find it odd that one cannot NTP peer these appliances.  This suggests
> to
> >> me that we should create a stratum 2 tier peer layer a stratum 3 tier
> > that
> >> peers and serves time to the endpoints.
> >>
> > I don't think that's necessary. The lower the stratum the bigger the
> > error budget, so depending on how accurate you want your time to be you
> > need to limit how low you are able to go.
> >
> > *The document "Notes on setting up an NTP subnet" state that one should
> > have at least three external time sources to each of your best stratum
> > servers and that the servers at this level should peer.  The GPS/clock
> > appliances we have cannot peer or take any other external sources.
> I'm not sure I understand what you mean here. A stratum 1 server can
> have a stratum 0 refclock (GPS or whatever) and have other stratum 1
> servers to peer with or it can become a stratum 2 server by accepting
> other stratum 1 servers as servers to itself in case the refclock
> becomes unavailable for some reason.

Yes, with NTP, but not with the implementation on this appliance.  It only
serves, no peering.

GPS satellites can become
> unavailable if they are no longer in the area in the sky that your
> antenna can see. NTP is designed to fail over to other sources of NTP
> packets if any server fails or gets out of synch with other servers.
> That's why you need at least 3 servers so that ntpd can make intelligent
> decisions about which server is providing the most reliable source.
> >  So I
> > consider them as very good GPS/clock (rubidium) Stratum 0 sources that
> > have inadequate NTP support,
> Is it because they are obsolete or is there another reason? We support
> everything we can, provided we either have the equipment or have someone
> who does who can help out.

Not obsolete, brank new. Eight Spectracom 9183 NetClocks with Rubidium
oscillators.  Claims to be "Stratum 1 NTP/SNTP Time Server via GPS" which
basically is the qualifier for supporting NTP as a server but not
for peering.

My belief is that this appliance should be used as a reference source to an
NTP server but not as an NTP server in its own right because there is no
ability to coordinate time with the rest of the NTP subnet.

Also, eight of these in a network as primary time servers without peering or
other outside references pushes the sanity check to the Local time servers.
If the all local time servers are properly configured with three or more
Primary sources, this should not be a problem.  But with  misconfigured
Local NTP server, portions of the network could drift.

One option would be to adminitratively permit only known Local NTP servers
for which we have some influence to access the Primary NTP servers.

> and are best used as time sources to clock
> > real NTP Stratum 1 servers which are properly configured with multiple
> > external sources and internal peering with other Stratu 1 servers in the
> > NTP subnet. *
> >
> >     > More dysfunction?  The plan is for the stratum 2 tier, which is
> >     also the
> >     > time distribution tier, to be the cache DNS for some high-volume
> >     data center
> >     > environments.
> >
> >     Which should be fine. What is the time going to be used for in
> relation
> >     to the cache DNS?
> >
> >
> > *There's no relation to the cache DNS, just shared services on the same
> > platform.  Large server environments querying the same server for both
> > DNS and NTP.  With DNS being such a rich security target, could we
> > unnecessarily expose NTP to disruption?  Also, couldn't there be resouce
> > contention between the services -- mostly in the direction of intense
> > DNS work interfering with consistent NTP responses? *
> > **
> There is no resource contention here. I am currently running NTP on this
> machine as I write. I'm banging at it as hard as I can with two
> different machines to try and break it and I don't even notice that it's
> running, never mind responding to packet requests.

Ok, so there's no case for clock instability due to resource contention on
NTP servers.  In practice, do large enterprise NTP subnets piggyback NTP
Primary and Local servers with other services?  This probably depends on
requitements ... which was mentioned in another thread where I'll delve into
that more deeply.



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