Improving Packet Synchronization in an NTP Server

Andrew N. Novick, Michael A. Lombardi, Kevin Franzen and John Clark

Abstract: A computer or dedicated client can use the Network Time Protocol (NTP) to synchronize an internal clock to a server that is synchronized by a 1 pulse-per-second (pps) signal from a national timing laboratory. Measuring an NTP server on a local area network can reveal timing synchronization errors and anomalies that are not nearly as likely to be recognized when NTP is utilized on a wide area network, where network delay asymmetry is the dominant source of uncertainty. We measured a commercially available NTP server by making rapid packet requests with UTC(NIST) as the common reference clock for both the server and client. Analysis of the results revealed repetitive synchronization errors in the packets transmitted by the server. Although these errors were usually too small to be detected by customers who deployed the server or by clients who accessed the server during typical usage, improving packet synchronization would benefit many applications. By collaborating with the server’s manufacturer, the source of the problem was revealed, and firmware changes were made to remove the synchronization errors. This paper describes our measurements and how the results were used to improve the server’s NTP packet synchronization.
Published in: Proceedings of the 49th Annual Precise Time and Time Interval Systems and Applications Meeting
January 29 - 1, 2018
Hyatt Regency Reston
Reston, Virginia
Pages: 256 - 260
Cite this article: Novick, Andrew N., Lombardi, Michael A., Franzen, Kevin, Clark, John, "Improving Packet Synchronization in an NTP Server," Proceedings of the 49th Annual Precise Time and Time Interval Systems and Applications Meeting, Reston, Virginia, January 2018, pp. 256-260.
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