[ntp:questions] Can or should the NTP protocol eventually serve timezone data?

Jan Ceuleers janspam.ceuleers at skynet.be
Wed Jun 17 19:56:58 UTC 2009

Joe wrote:
> Timezone data is fairly dynamic. It makes sense to have some form of
> network service to update timezone data. Does anyone know if there
> have been any proposals about a standardized timezone update protocol,
> or reasons why there should not be one? Since NTP is well established,
> maybe it could be expanded to include timezone data?

I recognise the need for resolving this problem.

What I know most about is the world of telecoms operators. Contrary to the advice most of us (chimeheads who hang out here) would give them, there are a lot of network operators who observe local time at lower layers than the presentation layer.

This can include things like:

- call detail records: local time is needed to apply the right tariffs where they depend on time-of-day. I would argue that the CDRs emitted by the network elements should use UTC timestamps, where the time is localised only by the rating system. However, many network operators have the network elements observe local time, causing all sorts of grief in respect of transitions to and from daylight savings time.

- logfiles: similar point. Correlation of events across multiple network elements is "problematic", particularly when they've been timestamped in local time, particularly if the network spans multiple time zones.

So the challenge is to keep tens of thousands of network elements (routers, ATM switches, telephone exchanges etc) aware of when to switch to/from DST during their lifetime of multiple years. Wouldn't it be great if we could do this without manual interventions, or scripts, or even cron jobs?

If local time were used only on equipment that has a presentation layer (OSS and BSS), then this would reduce the size of the problem by at least one if not two orders of magnitude.

(The above does not address the point as to whether or not NTP should be used to distribute time zone information though).

Cheers, Jan

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