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NTP Technology

Introduction

The NTP protocol (Network Time Protocol) is designed for synchronizing the clocks of computer systems connected to a network.

The protocol is formally described in an RFC document released by an international organization known as the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). A simplified variation of that protocol is also available. It is known as SNTP (Simple Network Time Protocol), which can be used in systems that do not require a high level of precision.

 

NTP technology, using a precise source such as a GPS satellite receiver, provides a nominal synchronization accuracy of a few tens of milliseconds, when using a WAN (Wide Area Network) networks, and less than a millisecond when using LAN (Local Area Networks) networks.

 

Because NTP is based on redundant servers and multiple network paths, devices can operate using hierarchical configurations, and this therefore increases the reliability of the entire system.

 

As a point of reference, the Coordinated UniversalTime (UTC) is used. It is a time common to all Countries, regardless of time zone and daylight saving time (DST).

 

Another important factor is that the amount of data-traffic generated by systems synchronized through NTP is minimal and they can therefore easily coexist within a pre-existing networks.

 

 

Architecture

NTP protocol is based on the measurement of latency times of the transitioning packets in the network. The various NTP servers are organized in a hierarchy (stratum) in which the most precise time references have the highest level 0 (for example, the GPS receiver has a  stratum 0, the server synchronized using the GPS has a stratum 1, and so on). Each server in the network is synchronized comparing its time information with that of the other servers, which can be of the same level or higher: in this way it is possible to guarantee reliability, redundancy and precision.

 

 

UTC

Coordinated universal time (UTC) is the standard time and is based on the Greenwich mean time GMT.

 

A time zone is a region on Earth that has a uniform standard time for legal, commercial, and social purposes, or, in other words have the same offset from the UTC. Some Countries, also use the daylight saving time (DST), meaning the conventional practice of advancing an hour during the summer season.

The local time which is displayed on a normal clock, can be therefore obtained by taking the UTC and adding the corresponding time zone and any daylight saving time difference.

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