5 Essential Elements of Network Time Synchronization: Element 4 (Part 6 of 8)

The Five Elements – Part 4: Robust Network Time Management

Managing a network of devices as a whole is different from managing specific devices. The availability and reliability of accurate time across the entire network—not just a part of it—must be guaranteed. Network time servers must work in sync, their operation should be centrally controlled, the processing load should be balanced, and enterprise policies on issues such as security should be enforced. Nor should providing network level management be so burdensome to network administrators that it interferes with other priorities they have to attend to.

The network management would typically run on a central workstation, from which it would connect securely to a trusted network time source (such as a dedicated GPS referenced time server) and to clients. It in turn then distributes that time accurately and verifiably to every time-aware machine on the network.

All time servers and clients should be individually identified using a unique serial number that is assigned when the management layer software is installed on the workstation. Administrators at this workstation are then able to perform the following activities:

• Perform core setup functions of all time servers:
— Installation
— Monitoring
— Configuration
— Troubleshoot device-level problems

• Monitor time synchronization enterprise-wide (i.e., are all clients synchronized within a specified threshold)

• Implement network-wide timekeeping mitigation strategies
— Time-source averaging
— Clock training
— Skewing (offsetting clocks by a constant value)
— Target seeking (skew clocks by a value needed to achieve a certain accuracy)

• Automatic failover of servers

• Multiple levels of fallback time sources

• Safeguard against malicious or inadvertent tampering with network timekeeping

The ideal result: a reliable time synchronization system that requires little management overhead and offers tremendous value to the integrity of network operations and applications. The network management layer is also the foundation for the last piece on top of the network timekeeping infrastructure, which will be discussed in my next article tomorrow.

Microsemi provides synchronization services that assist customers with the planning, deployment and maintenance of synchronization infrastructure. Services are designed to lower costs, streamline processes, ensure quality, and deliver the highest level of performance from your synchronization network. Visit Timing & Synchronization Systems and learn how we can help provide you with comprehensive solutions across a wide range of applications.

Read the previous posts in this series:

Part 1: 5 Essential Elements of Network Time Synchronization

Part 2: The Importance of Network Time Synchronization

Part 3: The Five Elements – Part 1: An Accurate Time Source 1

Part 4: The Five Elements – Part 2: A Timekeeping Architecture that Fits

Part 5: The Five Elements – Part 3: Robust Server Manaagement

Be sure and watch for the remaining 3 articles in this series, too, in the coming days.

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