NTP synchronizes timekeeping among a set of distributed time servers and clients. This synchronization allows events to be
correlated when system logs are created and other time-specific events occur.
NTP uses the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) as its transport protocol. All NTP communication uses Coordinated Universal Time
(UTC). An NTP network usually receives its time from an authoritative time source, such as a radio clock or an atomic clock
attached to a time server. NTP distributes this time across the network. NTP is extremely efficient; no more than one packet
per minute is necessary to synchronize two machines to within a millisecond of each other.
NTP uses the concept of a “stratum” to describe how many NTP “hops” away a machine is from an authoritative time source. A
“stratum 1” time server typically has an authoritative time source (such as a radio or atomic clock, or a GPS time source)
directly attached, a “stratum 2” time server receives its time via NTP from a “stratum 1” time server, and so on.
NTP avoids synchronizing to a machine whose time may not be accurate, in two ways. First, NTP never synchronizes to a machine
that is not synchronized itself. Second, NTP compares the time reported by several machines and does not synchronize to a
machine whose time is significantly different than the others, even if its stratum is lower. This strategy effectively builds
a self-organizing tree of NTP servers.
The Cisco implementation of NTP does not support stratum 1 service; in other words, it is not possible to connect to a radio
or atomic clock (for some specific platforms, however, you can connect a GPS time-source device). We recommend that time service
for your network be derived from the public NTP servers available in the IP Internet.
If the network is isolated from the Internet, the Cisco implementation of NTP allows a machine to be configured so that it
acts as though it is synchronized via NTP, when in fact it has determined the time using other means. Other machines can then
synchronize to that machine via NTP.
Several manufacturers include NTP software for their host systems, and a publicly available version for systems running UNIX
and its various derivatives is also available. This software also allows UNIX-derivative servers to acquire the time directly
from an atomic clock, which would subsequently propagate time information along to Cisco routers.
The communications between machines running NTP (known as associations) are usually statically configured; each machine is given the IP address of all machines with which it should form associations.
Accurate timekeeping is made possible by exchanging NTP messages between each pair of machines with an association.
In a LAN environment, NTP can be configured to use IP broadcast messages. As compared to polling, IP broadcast messages reduce
configuration complexity, because each machine can simply be configured to send or receive broadcast or multicast messages.
However, the accuracy of timekeeping is marginally reduced because the information flow is one-way only.
An NTP broadcast client listens for broadcast messages sent by an NTP broadcast server at a designated IPv4 address. The client
synchronizes the local clock using the first received broadcast message.
The time kept on a machine is a critical resource, so we strongly recommend that you use the security features of NTP to avoid
the accidental or malicious setting of incorrect time. Two mechanisms are available: an access list-based restriction scheme
and an encrypted authentication mechanism.
When multiple sources of time (VINES, hardware clock, manual configuration) are available, NTP is always considered to be
more authoritative. NTP time overrides the time set by any other method.
Preventing Issues due to GPS Week Number Rollover (WNRO)
If there are no GPS sources in the NTP source chain or server chain, there is no impact of GPS Week Number Rollover (WNRO).
GPS WNRO affects only the system clock and not user traffic.
Contact your GPS manufacturer to fix the GPS source for this condition.
To mitigate impact of GPS sources that are subject to GPS WNRO perform the following optional workarounds:
If the GPS source has been identified to be a cause of potential disruption on April 6, 2019 (or after), configure ntp master
in the Cisco that is device connected to this source, and its clock on the Stratum 1 device to preventively isolate it. This
configuration enables the device to present its own clock for synchronization to downstream NTP clients.
The usage of ntp master command as mentioned above is only a workaround to this condition. Use this command until the GPS
source-related conditions are resolved, and to prevent the distribution of incorrect clock values throughout the network.
Configure multiple NTP servers (ideally 4, but more than 3) at Stratum 2 level of the network, to enable NTP clients at Stratum
2 level to get clock from more than one Stratum 1 server. This way, WNRO affected Stratum 1 servers are staged to be marked
as ‘false ticker’ or ‘outlier’ clock sources as compared to other non-WNRO affected Stratum 1 servers.